"It's a big difference from then to now. It's like going from nothing to making your life better and that's all I've been doing. Living here is a whole big change, I feel free," said William Miller, 58, who spent more than a decade living homeless. Miller has lived at his apartment for nearly two years, the longest he's lived in a stable housing environment in recent memory. Miller called Bella Terra a life changing experience and said, "I'm happy."
The community opened in 2013 and provides 39 units of affordable rental housing to seniors. Five apartments were set aside for Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) households for formerly homeless seniors. Thanks to a combination of supportive service and access to stable housing, these five MHSA households have continued to thrive at the community.
EAH Housing worked with the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department to place Mr. Miller and other chronically homeless seniors into a stable affordable housing situation. EAH partnered with Community Solutions to provide direct counseling to improve their ability to live independently, steady their financial situation and participate in support groups.
"EAH Housing is a great partner and this has been a successful collaboration for our clients. Community Solutions' role is to help our clients reintegrate into the community without being stigmatized based on their histories," says Pat Mears, Director of Adult Behavioral Health Services at Community Solutions. "The dedicated and caring staff of Bella Terra have been an excellent team to work with in support of our clients."
"Being part of this affordable housing project has enabled the County to house chronically homeless seniors with special needs. I know that they are deeply appreciative of this opportunity, which they have expressed to me personally. The zero turnover rate among these tenants speaks volumes about how they treasure their living environment and the good collaboration between property management and the service provider Community Solutions," said Bob Dolci, Santa Clara County's homeless concerns coordinator.
According to the 2015 Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey, an estimated 6,556 individuals are homeless. Without funding support for MHSA apartments and accompanying supportive services, Mr. Miller might have been among those counted in the 2015 statistic. On-site EAH Housing staff offer all residents access to services provided by American Red Cross, Brown Bag, CalMediconnect, Quality Clinicians Care and Foothill Community Health Center. Residents of Bella Terra have access a range of Brown Bag programs, social activities, community building groups and wellness workshops. Apartment amenities include a community room, media room, fitness area, an indoor bicycle storage area, nearby restaurants and a shopping center.
"Bella Terra is a very bright spot in the Morgan Hill community that provides a sense of belonging to those that call it home. It is a premier example of how the right collaboration of management and resources can produce a wonderfully successful new neighborhood. We're proud to have partnered with EAH Housing, an organization that understands how to develop housing meeting local and regional goals and how best to serve those in need," said Leslie Little, Assistant City Manager for City of Morgan Hill.
Bella Terra is the result of a public-private partnership between EAH Housing, the City of Morgan Hill, Merritt Community Capital Corp., Silicon Valley Bank, California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), the County of Santa Clara, Federal Home Loan Bank, and California Community Reinvestment Corporation.
"EAH Housing cultivates relationships with local service providers to deliver community building groups, health and wellness programs, financial literacy courses and more. We hope to continue changing lives for the better with the help of our valued partners in local government and the private sector," said Dianna Ingle, EAH Housing VP of real estate management.