A Former Convent Becomes a Refuge for the Poor

En Español.

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After four years of work, the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services cut the ribbon Thursday on a 52-unit single-room-occupancy hotel in the Mission.

The SRO, called Casa Quezada after the late community organizer Eric Quezada, is the first new supportive housing project to be completed in the Mission in more than 10 years. It will serve extremely low-income residents — those earning 16 percent below the area median income, or about $11,200 a year.

Twelve nationalities are represented in the hotel: Mexican, Honduran, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Cuban, Australian, Haitian, American, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Colombian and Egyptian.

A resident who asked to be identified only as Reyes volunteers and occasionally gets work from the Cesar Chavez day laborer program. He struggled with alcoholism for about 20 years, but has been sober for two years.

“Imagine, compared to the street and the shelter, this is heaven,” he said.

Celestino Guillen, another tenant, remembers the rampant drug use and violence when he used to live on Woodward Street 15 years ago.

He also struggled with alcoholism, and remembers being unable to step outside for fear of violence. Now that he is sober, he said he is happy to return to the much-improved street.

“I realized that this street and I have a lot of things in common,” he said to roaring applause from hundreds of city officials and community members in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Supervisor David Campos reminded those gathered that as the city emerges from a recession, “let us not forget about low-income people.”

The building was constructed in 1907 as a convent. It served as supportive housing from the 1990s to the early 2000s, but had been vacant for five years when city nonprofits and the Mayor’s Office of Housing decided to rehabilitate it.

Tenants, who are referred by the Dolores Street Community Services shelter program, the Mission Neighborhood Health Center and other city agencies, began moving in as soon as construction was completed in the Fall.

Dolores Street Community Services ran into opposition from neighbors who were concerned about problems associated with SROs.

Wendy Phillips, the organization’s new executive director, said that some of the issues had been worked out, but noted that some neighbors were still opposed to the hotel. A neighborhood watch meeting was held recently at the hotel.

The hotel will provide nightly meals, resident activities, case management and on-site therapy services. Staff is on site 24 hours a day.

The neighbors’ issues mostly stem from assumptions people make about the homeless population, Phillips said. Some of the tenants struggle with mental illness, while others are day laborers and people who can’t afford to live in the city.

Casa Quezada is the Mission’s 51 SRO. Most are along Mission and 16th streets. Some are privately owned, while others are operated by nonprofits.

The building was brought online in a collaboration between Dolores Street Community Services, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center.

 

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One Comment

  1. js

    As a case manager who has referred client here, I see the positive difference that this place has made in their lives. And as a nearby resident, I hope to see more models like this one spring up.

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