Jean Green, 6th person and 1st woman to move into new Arendt House
A green habitat for an environmentally green facility
"Today I'm celebrating. It's been 119 days since the day I moved here. I no longer have the stigma of homelessness. I have peace and empowerment." Jean Green is one of the North Panhandle's newest neighbors, and she couldn't be more pleased to have joined the community of formerly homeless seniors at the Zygmundt Arendt House at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Broderick Street. Thursday afternoon Green celebrated the Grand Opening of the Arendt House with a few hundred others, including Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, staff from the several city agencies, representatives from the contractors and funders, house residents, and neighbors.
Green's story exemplified the importance of providing affordable homes to those who need assistance. She told the other celebrants that she lost her home in 2007 and had to move into a homeless shelter. "I was born in San Francisco and I didn't want to leave the city, but I also didn't want to be in a shelter with so many troubled people." Only her resolve kept her going. "I tried to stay strong. I had to focus on keeping my health and my sanity." Just when Green believed she had no choice but to leave the city, she saw a notice for the Arendt House. She qualified and became the sixth resident and first woman to move into the facility. After the unsettling time at the shelter, Green said all she heard once she settled in was quiet. "It was so quiet, I could sleep, and I was so happy."
Green had another reason to celebrate on Thursday. She graduated from the desk clerk training program offered by the Community Housing Partnership, an owner of the Arendt House along with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. "Today I have hope and I'm optimistic."
At first several North Panhandle neighbors were hesitant, or outright opposed, to the idea of new housing for homeless seniors in the area. Some resisted the original modern architecture and design proposed for the building. Through negotiations with the owners and architects, a new design was developed that more readily reflected the scale and appearance of the surrounding buildings. Others objected to the high proportion of service agencies and supportive housing already existing in NOPA compared with other neighborhoods. And neighbors were reluctant about who the residents would be and how they would affect the existing community.
Doug Shoemaker of the Mayor's Office of Housing commended the North Panhandle for bring its concerns to the city and its willingness to find a solution. "The experience this neighborhood had in coming to accept this project is one we need to take to other neighborhoods." Supervisor Mirkarimi added to the sentiment. "This is a model for other neighborhoods on how to work with the city. It can work and we can be proud of the end product."
Today the Arendt House consists of an attractive exterior with references to the nearby Victorian and Edwardian structures. It provides individual studios, each with a full bathroom and kitchenette. The project includes a courtyard garden, landscape roof deck, and a community room. The complex also incorporates several green building elements including a rainwater retention system with a backyard bioswale and the neighborhood's most extensive permeable sidewalks along Broderick and Golden Gate, as reported here earlier.
The real selling points to a project like the Arendt House are the residents themselves. Michael Chao, Project Manager for CHP, told BIKE NOPA, "This is so rewarding, more than I expected, because the tenants tell us how happy they are to be here."
Scenes from the Grand Opening Thursday: