It's taken 27 years to get to this point, but Camillus House opened the first facility of its new campus earlier this month. The Anthony & Genevieve Abraham Cedars Court will provide permanent housing in a brand new, eco-friendly and energy efficient apartment building for 80 persons who were formerly homeless.
After years of negotiations, Camillus House was able to find a location that both met its needs and addressed community concerns over proximity to residential areas.
The first residents are now moving into Anthony & Genevieve Abraham Cedars Court as construction proceeds on Phase 1 of the new campus, near Jackson Memorial Hospital. The campus will include seven buildings around an enclosed courtyard.
“It’s a lovely apartment, very cute,” said Maryanne Bryceland, 67 (pictured below left), of the fully furnished one-bedroom into which she moved a couple weeks ago. She had been living at a shelter last month. “I’m looking forward to resting. I’m looking forward to saving some money. And I’m glad to be in a place where I can soak in the bathtub and walk around with a towel on my head.”
The seven-story Anthony & Genevieve Abraham Cedars Court, built for Camillus by affordable-housing developer Biscayne Housing Group using public financing, includes a range of green, energy-saving features unusual for a low-cost project. They include high efficiency air conditioning systems, lights that turn off when people leave a room, and a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels that will feed power into the electrical grid.
Designed as a green project, the facility has received LEED Gold certification by the U.S Green Building Council, its second highest rating. These green measures will make operating the building less expensive as well as lower electrical costs for tenants, who pay rent and are responsible for their own utility bills.
“It’s better lighting, a better environment and better comfort for the occupants,” said Sequil principal Jeff Conley, who is consulting with Camillus House. “And, it will lower electrical bills for tenants, making it even more affordable.”
In addition to the Anthony & Genevieve Abraham Cedars Court, a new 200-car garage was also completed to serve the entire campus, which will include substance-abuse and mental health treatment programs, a new emergency shelter, medical clinic, kitchen and dining rooms, job training and job placement programs, a wellness center and an auditorium, in addition to administrative offices.
The residential treatment building and the building housing the dining, activities and office space should be completed in late 2012.
Camillus House anticipates vacating its downtown building around July 2012, said Dr. Paul R. Ahr, President and CEO. Dr. Ahr expects the construction of the new emergency shelter to be well under way by then.
The new campus, which covers 3.1 acres between Interstate 95 and Northwest Seventh Avenue, has been designed to provide comprehensive support services and a range of housing options to persons who are chronically homeless. The new campus will serve both men and women and provide services to individuals who speak Spanish. In addition, the courtyard space will allow persons who initially are hesitant to sleep indoors to reside safely within the campus.
The campus, which is being financed through a combination of public grants, loans and $35 million in private donations, will more than double Camillus House’s capacity. The 340-bed campus will allow Camillus to serve an estimate 3,000 people each year.
As part of Camillus House’s broad based approach, apartments at the campus are being rented for under $200 per month to persons who are chronically homeless, many with physical and/or mental disabilities, who have sources of income — government assistance or, in some cases, jobs.
Anthony & Genevieve Abraham Cedars Court will provide activities and amenities to keep residents engaged and build a sense of community while case managers work with them work to ensure they stay housed. The building, which is being managed by affordable housing nonprofit Carrfour, also has a computer and exercise rooms, library and classroom space.
Many of the residents moving in have been homeless for many years. “Thank God for Camillus House,” said Dudley Armstrong, 56 (pictured at left), overlooking his bright kitchen room overlooking Seventh Avenue. “Being out on the streets is not fit for a human. But I did what I was supposed to do, stayed clean, stayed focused, and this is one of the benefits.”