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New homeless complex the Renato Apartments open on Skid Row

11/4/2010, 5 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A $25 million apartment complex opened on Skid Row to provide housing and social services for many of the city's homeless population, and it was touted as a way to save taxpayers $1 million a year by getting homeless people timely help.

Renato Apartments, at 531 S. San Julian St., has 96 units--60 of which are reserved for the chronically homeless and those who suffer from mental illness. The rest are allotted for tenants earning no more than 45 percent of the area's median income.

All of the tenants in the studio apartments will be supported by the federal Section 8 rental subsidy.

An organization called Single Room Occupancy Housing will provide tenants with on-site social services, while the neighboring James Woods Community Center will give them free meals and other assistance, including drug and alcohol recovery programs.

Proponents say Renato Apartments will save taxpayers more than $1 million every year in defrayed public costs by providing chronically homeless individuals with housing, healthcare, counseling and other supportive services, rather than consigning them to access care in emergency rooms and jails.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the project advanced his so-called "Housing that Works'' plan to shift from managing homelessness to ending it.

"Today, we are celebrating another step forward in housing our most vulnerable population and addressing one of Los Angeles' great moral challenges,'' he said during today's grand opening ceremony.

"We know that permanent supportive housing works to break the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing the safe harbor of a stable home and a supportive environment that can literally change a person's life,'' he added.

"We're talking about an investment in the lives of human beings--men, women and children who need shelter and who deserve a greater chance to succeed.''

Villaraigosa said the project was a result of a collaboration between several city and county agencies, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and nonprofit organizations, including Enterprise Community Partners.

"Addressing our shared responsibility to decrease homelessness and increase housing availability requires partnerships between communities and philanthropic efforts, as well as increased support from the state and federal government,'' Villaraigosa said. "The Renato Apartments are the perfect example of the fruits of our collective labor, providing our fellow Angelenos with a permanent home and support they need to stay off the streets.''

"The Renato Apartments serve as another great example of what we have been able to accomplish in cooperation with our community partners,'' said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents downtown. "We are building beautiful, supportive housing and addressing the challenges of homelessness in the process.''

The "Housing that Works'' plan calls for financing 2,200 units of permanent supportive housing.

Over the last two years, 1,335 units have funding. Projects include the Charles Cobb Apartments and New Genesis projects, both on Skid Row; the Villas at Gower, near Hollywood and Vine; and Glenoaks Gardens in Sun Valley.