By Kiley Jacques
Once a defunct naval shipyard, Century Villages of Cabrillo supports a diverse community of once-homeless individuals and families.
“On any given night of the year, 1,300 people—either formerly homeless or at risk of becoming homeless—find housing at Century Villages of Cabrillo (CVC) in Long Beach, California. The residents are as diverse as the services available to them. Those who have found their way into the community have discovered a supportive environment where counseling, case management, healthcare, life skills programming, and employment resources are at their disposal. “We really try to surround our residents with all the tools they need to take that next step in their lives, whatever that may be,” says senior vice president of housing for Century Housing, Brian D’Andrea.
Century Villages of Cabrillo in Long Beach, California, proves housing for 1,300 formerly homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Century villages is owned by Century Housing, a community development financial institution.
Century Housing, a leading community development financial institution, owns and manages the $63 million 27-acre campus. It is one of their many projects aimed at funding affordable housing in California. But as D’Andrea points out: This project has been particularly effective, in large part because of what he terms “collective impact.” More than 20 different nonprofits work in some capacity on behalf of the residents living at the Villages. “We really see ourselves as the backbone of this network,” says D’Andrea. “We are there to give people a hand up, not a hand out.”
The campus sits on a lot once occupied by a naval shipyard. Back in the 1990s, the federal government began the dispossession and closure of local shipyards. For 12 years, Century Housing and its allied organizations have worked to turn the site and its buildings into a development that directly benefits homeless individuals and families. Under the McKinney Act, which provides federal money for homeless shelter programs, CVC was born.
The Cabrillo Gateway provides housing for 80 families and has achieved LEED Platinum status. LEED for Homes is the baseline for all new building code requirements on the campus.
Since its inception, the campus has been in a continual state of development and redevelopment. “If you were to visit the campus today, you would see vestiges of the old naval housing stock that we inherited and did a big adaptive reuse of,” explains D’Andrea. Over time, they have dismantled and replaced a lot of it with new, efficient and sustainable, permanent and supportive housing.
In addition to the state and federal entitlements determining CVC’s evolution, D’Andrea says: “We also have our own internal set of guiding principles for planning and development.” They are currently in the process of updating their master plan—the third update in two decades. “Beyond our commitment to wanting to map out what the future looks like, one of the things that is driving the process is the fact that we received an Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant through [the] U.S. Green Building Council [USGBC] a couple of years ago to secure Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] for Neighborhood Development certification for our plan.”
Economically speaking, it’s smart for an organization to incorporate sustainability into its plans. But D’Andrea adds: “We think it is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, too.” There is a LEED for Homes baseline that is part of new building code requirements, “but we like to try to go above and beyond and fulfill our vision.”
More recent phases of development have included Cabrillo Gateway, which achieved LEED Platinum, and Anchor Place, for which LEED Gold certification is anticipated. “This is an example of our commitment to improving the health and wellness of our residents,” says D’Andrea of Cabrillo Gateway, which provides housing for more than 80 families. Additionally, the Children’s Clinic—located on the building’s ground floor—functions as a primary healthcare clinic for residents of the building as well as the greater community. They serve families, veterans, and seniors, providing healthcare for more than 700 patients.
The entire CVC campus sits in an industrialized zone of west Long Beach. A nearby port and refinery as well as a mass of crisscrossing freeways make up the greater landscape, making air quality a major consideration. Many area residents suffer respiratory ailments. With that in mind, a double-infiltration system was installed in the Gateway residence, whereby air is filtered upon intake and again within each individual unit. The system uses Merv 13 filters and a high-efficiency HVAC system that “physically scrubs the interior air,” according to D’Andrea.
“Sustainability is something that, philosophically, our organization is committed to. You can see it in the more recent developments that we’ve completed, along with the underlying planning process that we are going through right now with sustainability being a focal point,” explains D’Andrea, noting CVC’s Community Plan Principles: Shelter and Home; Respect and Representation; Health and Wellbeing; Financial Stability; Evol[ution] and Shar[ing]; and Environmental Sustainability. “That theme of sustainability is woven throughout,” he says.
D’Andrea describes a psychological heath benefit to living at the Villages, noting how the cultivated landscape contributes to making it a pleasant community—one that visitors are surprised to learn is comprised of formerly homeless residents. “We work really hard to create that sense of neighborhood—that’s a big part of what we do, creating a dignified, beautiful environment where people live and enjoy and work.”
The effectiveness of what is being done at CVC is evidenced in their 5th annual impact report, where their numerous contributions to the community include millions of dollars in economic output and household earnings, and hundreds of jobs—the combination of which is ultimately easing the cost of homelessness. In large part, the construction of Cabrillo Gateway is responsible for those numbers.
Equally compelling are the personal successes. Of the wellness program’s twice-weekly cooking classes, “Let’s Make Lunch,” led by CVC’s occupational therapy interns, one resident says: “I really enjoy learning to cook healthier meals for my mind and body—to just be able to enjoy people and life no matter what situation we’re in. We can all mend together, even if it’s just over cooking and eating.”
All told, CVC has had a major impact on the lives of those it serves—on multiple levels. With a roof over their heads, assistance programs in place, and clean air to breathe, residents are living more gratifying lives. “In the end,” concludes D’Andrea, “we are here to help people get well, healthy, and stabilized so they can begin to think about their future.”