Finding a Home on Minna

Fifty-eight formerly homeless veterans will receive new housing before the end of the year.

The Auburn hotel is just one of a dozen single room occupancy hotels (SROs) scattered around Sixth Street. After the 1906 fire, boarding houses in the area housed  the city’s working class, and in the decades since, these small rooms — often with communal bathrooms down the hall — have become a refuge for much of the city’s poor, disabled, and formerly homeless. The lack of living areas to socialize in mean many residents hang out on the street, making hot dogs on a barbecue, chatting with neighbors, and occasionally pawning goods to make ends meet.

On Minna Street, however, one of these old residential hotels will soon cater to a specific population in need of housing. Before the end of the year, 58 chronically homeless veterans will move into the old Auburn Hotel at 481 Minna St. In total, 70 units will become available, as 12 remaining tenants slowly move out.

In the past few months, the three-story building — which is leased to Episcopal Community Services — has received new windows, new doors, renovated bathrooms, ceramic tiles, and a community kitchen. Each unit is small, but it contains a bed, dresser, mini fridge, microwave, and a flatscreen TV.

“We really hope that we can create a warm and welcoming community where vets coming from homelessness can be supported,” says Liz Pocok, director of housing development and asset management at ECS.

But for many struggling veterans, the battle to function in modern society doesn’t end with housing. At The Auburn, a number of support services are available: Substance-abuse counseling, mental and physical health treatment, occupational training, job placement, and financial management are all accessible and free to residents. And ECS has solid partners — the Veterans Affairs Medical Center will connect veterans to The Auburn, and Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing, a San Francisco nonprofit, will manage the property.

The collaboration, Pocok says, is about offering “trauma-informed care, being able to meet the vets where they are, and help them in the specific way they need.”  

The Auburn is just the latest in a list of buildings on or just off of Sixth Street that are managed by ECS, which specializes in providing homes and resources for low-income and homeless people. Around the corner from The Auburn is the The Alder, which houses 117 people. The Henry hosts 121, The Rose has 75, and The Hillsdale, 84.

And this specific house targets a population in dire need of a multi-pronged approach to addressing the needs of veterans who may have lived off the grid for many years.

“Nobody should have to live on the streets, especially those who have served our country,” says Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness. “Thanks to permanent supportive housing sites such as The Auburn, we are coming ever closer to ending chronic homelessness for veterans in San Francisco.”

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