The city of Hayward is working with Alameda County and nonprofit Bay Area Community Services to buy St. Regis Retirement Center on Mission Boulevard and transform it into a campus that supports people who are struggling with housing and their physical or mental health.
“It is the missing service piece for individuals who are facing mental health challenges and who might be homeless or at risk of homelessness,” Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo explained to the Eden Township Health District Board of Directors on Nov. 16. She said these are individuals who might be too sick for housing without support services, but not ill enough to be admitted to the John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro.
McAdoo, Hayward’s Community Services Manager Jessica Lobedan and Jonathan Russell, chief strategy and impact officer with Bay Area Community Services, went before the board to request $250,000, which it unanimously approved, to buy the 5-acre, 157-room St. Regis property. The partners already raised $17.2 of the $17.45 million needed for the acquisition.
“It’s appraised higher than that,” Russell said. “So given the actual value, it’s a great deal.”
The campus is expected to have nursing and clinical staff on-site and provide behavioral health treatment, crisis services, on-site medical clinic services, and varying levels of permanent supportive housing, especially for those who are medically fragile or have co-occurring behavioral health needs.
“We have a lot of resources in our community for individuals exiting homelessness, but a precious shortage of housing for individuals that are aging, have complex medical needs, and are exiting homelessness,” Russell said.
The St. Regis site would include recuperative care or medical respite for people who are homeless and exiting a hospital, emergency department or other institution, but aren’t physically ready to be discharged into a shelter or independent housing, he said.
It would allow people who “have some ongoing medical needs to really help step down from their level of care stably without moving into homelessness,” Russell said.
Some residents are also expected to have leases and live at the site on a long-term basis.
Once acquired, they plan to do a “full-site beautification and rehabilitation,” including expanding access for people with disabilities, Russell said.
“It’s an older site,” Russell said. “It was built in the late 50’s, early 60’s, but it’s got good bones, so the large majority of that will really be cosmetic.”
The partners expect to have the site acquired and the program ready to launch in about a year during fall 2023.
The city, county and nonprofit decided on St. Regis as a good location for that missing service piece when they learned it was no longer going to be used as an assisted living facility, Lobedan said.
But there are still about 30 or so residents remaining in the private senior care facility and Russell said the nonprofit is working with the residents, county, state and others to transition them to other comparable housing.
“Thankfully,” Russell said, “as some of you might know, there are a lot of residential care facilities for the elderly, including those in the immediate Hayward area that we’ve been working closely with and that are also significantly under their census.”
The city of Hayward has been increasingly assertive in addressing the homelessness crisis over the past several years, starting with the opening of the city’s first navigation center in November 2019, Lobedan said. That was followed by the opening of a second navigation center in February 2021.
Both are operated by the Bay Area Community Services, along with a host of other services and programs.
“I am happy to share that since opening the first navigation center in 2019, over 200 individuals have moved into permanent housing from both of these sites,” Lobedan said, adding that homelessness in the city reduced by 22% according to the point-in-time count, which gives a snapshot of homelessness on a particular day in a given area and helps agencies plan for services.
The Hayward City Council has also authorized the Hayward Evaluation and Response Team as an alternative to the 911 emergency services system, adopted a strategic plan to reduce homelessness and allocated $7.5 million in COVID-19 stimulus funds to addressing homelessness.
That “was roughly 20 to 25% of the city’s stimulus allocation,” Lobedan said, “so a really sizable allocation of funding to address this growing crisis.”