What we have not seen addressed in either of Howard Yune’s recent articles about the Heritage House project is the “bait and switch” by the Gasser Foundation.
We are in complete support of the project as it was first presented by Gasser at neighborhood meetings held in the summer of 2018. I was one of the few people in the room who spoke out in favor of the project and the need to help our less fortunate neighbors. There is a great need for housing for the homeless in Napa, and we felt at the meeting that this project was both thoughtful and appropriate.
The information given to us at that meeting was that the project for the former Sunrise property would be managed by Abode; and include on-site supervision and support for the residents. Tenants could not have a history of criminal felony behavior and they would be required to maintain sobriety. Abode has an admirable record of helping the homeless adapt and re-enter society through their supported programs; we would be proud to have this in our backyard.
On Jan. 11, we received a notice that the Gasser Foundation was applying for a state grant through the “no place like home” program. They received the grant. And as we know, money changes everything.
By accepting the funds, the Gasser Foundation now has to abide by the grant mandate, which states: “Sponsors shall accept tenants regardless of sobriety, participation in services or treatment, history of incarceration, credit, or history of eviction in accordance with practices permitted pursuant to WIC Section 8255 or other federal or State Project funding sources.”
And Tenants shall not be required to maintain sobriety, be tested for substances, or participate in services or treatment.
I contacted Cass Walker, Housing Consultant for the Gasser Foundation to ask what was up with this? Why had the rules changed? Why was the Gasser Foundation going back on its word? Cass is wonderful, she was completely transparent when she told me that the foundation actually applied for the funding before they realized what the terms of the grant would be.
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Mr. Yune’s article in the Register on Jan. 23 of this year states, “Owned by the Gasser Foundation, the former Sunrise property would be co-developed by Burbank Housing Development Corp. and Abode Services, which contracts with Napa County to run homeless support services. Thirty-three of the units would be for other tenants with very low incomes, but the rest would be marked as permanent supportive housing – with their residents offered social services from Abode to help prevent them from ending up back on streets or encampments, according to city Housing Manager Lark Ferrell.”
In Mr. Yune’s article of Aug. 16, he quotes several city planning commissioners’ positive impressions of their site visits to housing managed by Abode, their management and success rate. But now we ask you, Planning Commission – when are you going to visit apartments that house this fragile population without supported services or tenant accountability? Will you have the same positive impression?
Now, due to the regulations of the “no place like home” grant things have changed, and the Gasser Foundation has been completely silent about this. We have yet to hear of Gasser holding additional neighborhood meetings to tell us that the assurances they made to us no longer hold true. And that they are accepting this state funding even though it changes the rules and guidelines they had ascertained.
So, what are we asking? To the Gasser Foundation – you have done so much to help our community – please do what you said you would do; have the project managed completely by Abode and not in proportion to the monies received from the “no place like home” grant. That is why the neighbors are “knocking” the housing plan. Because it will set the unsupported residents of the Heritage House up for failure and it unnecessarily puts the current residents of our neighborhood at risk.
I suppose my naïve request is to ask you to explore different funding sources—in order to keep your word, and act with integrity.
Michael Schwartz and Shelly Hanan
Editor’s note: The Register asked the Gasser Foundation, which owns the property, about several letters opposing the project and they sent the following statement: “The Gasser Foundation is sensitive to the concerns of both the neighbors and housing advocates voiced at recent meetings, in emails and phone calls. To address these concerns we are continuing to reach out to our Partners, and State and Federal Agencies to fully understand what regulations might accompany the funding sources they have and will be soliciting. We are working hard to reconcile all of this information and community points of view to ensure the proposed housing meets State and Federal requirements. The Gasser Foundation’s mission is to provide support and services to those in our community who are most in need, and it is our responsibility to create housing that can accomplish that goal.”