State awards $14 million to Merced for affordable housing project aimed at helping homeless

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced city officials are hoping to turn a plot of land on Childs and B streets into a second chance for folks living on the street.

On Friday, the state awarded the city nearly $14 million for transit-oriented housing aimed at giving hundreds of people a home.

"It's going to make a large dent," said Merced mayor Mike Murphy. "And it's going to help folks on the edge of becoming homeless."

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The housing project will hold 119 units, 30 of those will be permanent support care for folks experiencing homelessness, and the rest will be for those that meet 60 percent of the average median income.

It's an exclusive approach, it's not just for homeless or affordable. We're integrating them together," said city planning director Steve McBride.

City officials say the homeless crisis is an issue both in the state and in Merced.

The latest homeless count shows 607 people are homeless in Merced. That's an 18 percent increase from 2018.

Jess Lopez says he used to be part of that statistic, living on the streets after dealing with substance abuse for decades.

"I was hitting rock bottom. (I) was here and here. Even my family was getting tired of me," he said.

After turning to the Merced Mission, Lopez got sober and now has a place to call home. That's why he agrees more housing is crucial.

"There's a lot of homeless people out there that really need it. Sometimes they can't get the help," he said.

Lloyd Pariera says the continuum of care also received money from the state to move forward with a navigation center. It's expected to have more than 90 beds, facilities, and services all under one roof.

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The center would also be steps away from the city's new housing project.

"The project the city is doing has affordable housing and supportive housing so, through this navigation center, we're going to find people who can't take care of themselves, so they'll need that permanent supporting housing," Pariera said.

Along with housing, the project will also bring a new electric bus and infrastructure improvements to the area.

McBride says they're hoping to break ground on the project next summer, and it should take about two years to build.
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