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Affordable housing for homeless veterans being built in SLO

Tour a housing project planned for homeless veterans in SLO

Take a look around the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo's project under construction on Humbert Avenue in San Luis Obispo that will include new housing for homeless veterans.
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Take a look around the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo's project under construction on Humbert Avenue in San Luis Obispo that will include new housing for homeless veterans.

A $4 million housing complex under construction in San Luis Obispo will be the first project of its kind in the city to specifically designate half of its units for homeless veterans.

The 860 on the Wye complex being built by the nonprofit Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo at 860 Humbert Ave. will feature 20 long-term rental units, a community room and a 4,000-square-foot community garden. The housing authority recently received the last of the funding needed to complete the development — a $150,000 grant from Home Depot.

Veterans are coming back to a very difficult housing environment.

Scott Smith, executive director of HASLO

“Veterans are coming back to a very difficult housing environment, where there are almost no vacancies in the county,” HASLO Executive Director Scott Smith said. “The competition for housing is very steep.”

The complex, scheduled to be completed by spring 2017, will have nine 350-square-foot studio apartments, 10 one-bedroom units of 550 square feet and a single two-bedroom unit of 725 square feet.

Ten units are slotted for homeless veterans, nine will be designated as affordable housing for those who qualify and one unit will be set aside for a resident complex manager. Veterans will be referred by the local Veterans Affairs office.

I lost my job. It could happen to anyone.

Art Apruzzese, a formerly homeless Vietnam veteran in San Luis Obispo

Rent will be $400 per month including utilities for veterans and up to $550 per month including utilities for those who qualify for affordable housing. The veterans will be required to pay only 30 percent of their income; the rest will be subsidized by HASLO.

The project received more than $1 million in public funding, including federal Community Development Block Grants, and allocations from the city Affordable Housing Fund, the San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund and HASLO. The name 860 on the Wye comes from its 860 Humbert Ave. address and its location of the historical Southern Pacific Railroad wye, or triangular junction of two rail lines.

Art Apruzzese, a Vietnam veteran, lives in the Del Rio Terrace complex on Johnson Avenue operated by HASLO that is restricted to seniors and disabled residents. Apruzzese, who suffered a noncombat injury during an accident while serving in Vietnam, said he has been homeless at times, and the struggle to overcome it is very difficult.

“I’ve had to sleep in my car in San Diego and here in San Luis Obispo County,” Apruzzese said. “I lost my job. It could happen to anyone. It’s very difficult if you don’t have a place to take a shower and not enough money for food and those kinds of things. It’s very isolating.”

Apruzzese said HASLO has been “a lifesaver” for many veterans who use its housing services and believes the new housing for homeless veterans will help more.

“They’ll have no trouble filling those,” Apruzzese said. “They have helped so many people. I’m so thankful for everything they’ve done for me.”

Smith said that one of the key features of the project is the community garden, which will allow the residents to grow their own crops.

“I think it will be really therapeutic for the veterans to get out there and be able to grow plants,” Smith said.

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