Interview with Clifford Beers Housing
Named after Mental Health America’s hero and founder, Clifford Beers Housing Inc. (CBH) is a community housing organization in Southern California that develops affordable housing for individuals and families with limited incomes, including households that are either homeless, chronically homeless, or at-risk of homelessness and have a member living with a mental illness. They are committed to creating thoughtfully designed, affordable and integrated communities to enhance the lives of individuals and families who have experienced mental illness and homelessness. To date, CBH has 756 affordable homes completed or in the pipeline throughout Southern California, with 507 apartments in operation and 249 apartments in development.
We spoke with CBH to learn how they are navigating the coronavirus pandemic and shut-down.
How are you helping your residents in this challenging time?
People experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles are at a higher risk for COVID-19 due to chronic health conditions; lack of access to health services, sanitation and healthy food; and lack of sleep and general wellness. The economic crisis resulting from this pandemic also threatens to push millions more into homelessness. CBH is working to both move people currently experiencing homelessness into safer situations in permanent homes, while also helping keep our current residents safe and in their homes.
We are supporting our current residents while practicing social distancing, including providing residents with food, masks, sanitation supplies, thermometers, quarantine kits for new residents, phone and internet access, mental health services by phone and video, access to benefits and financial help, and information on how to stay healthy.
Our staff are working hard to ensure that we are financially stable, so that we can continue providing the same quality of service, keep paying the bills and supporting our residents if they are unable to pay their portion of rent due to job loss or other reason due to this crisis. Affordable housing has been deemed an essential service, and construction continues on three of our developments in Long Beach, Sylmar and South LA, which will produce 96 new apartments in 2020 to help move more people from the streets into permanent homes immediately. Support from our banking partner is crucial in shoring up our organization’s budget, ensuring healthy and financially viable buildings, helping our low-income residents pay rent, and making a difference to continue our essential work of ending homelessness and preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
How can the Boston Private community help you right now?
There are a number of ways people can support us. The first is by donating. With your support, CBH can continue to assist members of our community to secure a safe and beautiful home. You are helping to solve homelessness and mental illness, so everyone has the opportunity to work towards a brighter future.
You can also show support by joining our mailing list, attending our free livestream concert fundraiser on August 6, and spreading the word about CBH. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to learn more.
What has your experience been like working with Boston Private during this period?
CBH is incredibly grateful to Boston Private for a number of reasons. Most recently, for the way our relationship manager, Monica Cooper, reached out to us and helped walk us through the application process to be able to receive a PPP loan in the first round that was released. We know it was a very competitive process and many other small businesses and nonprofits didn’t make it, but Monica helped us get everything in on time and that loan is going to make a big difference as we face so much uncertainty this year.
In addition to the PPP loan assistance, Boston Private has given us grants in the last two years. Boston Private Community Development Lender Emma Chavez serves on our board and has provided incredible support.
What’s one lesson or takeaway you’ve learned throughout this crisis?
Our mission is to build homes, create community and foster hope. Our critical role in bringing hope has been illuminated in this time. Before the pandemic, LA County had 60,000 homeless people. The pandemic and skyrocketing unemployment threatens to push a million more low-income families over the edge if we don’t do something differently. In this pandemic and the resulting worldwide economic crisis, are we part of the problem or part of the solution? Out of this crisis, our tough-as-nails team is searching for opportunities to create new solutions to end homelessness. Our team is working day and night with the optimism and belief that it is possible to do things differently, and that out of chaos, crisis and fear can come hope — that is the peace and wellbeing that a healthy permanent home brings.