On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Mary’s Mercy Center celebrated the grand opening of Mary’s Village, San Bernardino’s first transitional home for men, filling a need for the area’s homeless that went unanswered for many years.

Mary’s Village is the first of four phases in the vision of Father Mike Barry, president of Mary’s Mercy Center, to provide housing and services to lift men out of homelessness.

It’s successful completion was the collaborate effort of San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, San Bernardino County, city of San Bernardino, Crestwood Communities and Southern California Edison. These partnerships made the $8.5 million project a reality with 100 percent private funding.

San Manuel invested $7.3 million in the project and Edison invested heavily to give Mary’s Village state-of-the-art utilities and appliances while making it a test bed for all-electric and net-zero energy efficiency in residential development. Crestwood developed and constructed the village.

The buildings were furnished with funding from Dignity Health.

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairman Ken Ramirez shared that the Tribe’s partnerships with the Mary’s Mercy Center and Loma Linda University Hosptial extend 100-year-old partnerships that began with the local Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist churches offering services and support to the Tribe when it had very little and often went without basic needs.

“This is still our homeland and it is up to us to make sure it is growing, sustainable and healthy,” Ramirez said.

Mary’s Village

The village provides transitional housing and programs to lift men out of homelessness and into self-sufficient living in four buildings, a total of 30,000 square feet.

The four buildings are able to house up to 80 men and are designed for staged personal development. Each of the buildings includes communal living spaces including kitchens and dinning rooms. Two buildings include dorm rooms with several beds per room. When men first enter Mary’s Village they will live in these buildings. As they progress through educational and case management programs, vocational training and get jobs they will move into the other two buildings ⎯ one in which two men can share a room and the other with private rooms.

“We knew where the need was because for years our phones have been ringing with people asking for services for the men, but we had nowhere to put them,” said Terry Kent, Mary’s Mercy Center boardman and vice president of operations for Crestwood Communities, referring to the services offered for women and children at Mary’s Mercy Center’s Veronica’s Home of Mercy.

“While we focused in the past on the women and children the men went without,” said Ramirez. “It has finally come full circle.”

According to Kent, Mary’s Village was designed to be a home and not feel like an institution. There is plenty of space in and surrounding the buildings.

The village is made up of single story buildings in response to concerns from neighboring residents who did not want a three-story building towering over their neighborhood. This also saved on the considerable costs associated with constructing, maintaining and safety inspecting elevators.

Kent pointed out that, as a totally private endeavor, Mary’s Village is able to provide transitional housing and services for the homeless much more efficiently than government-funded efforts. Mary’s Village provides housing for the homeless at a cost of approximately $85,000 per unit while a recent audit reported that Los Angeles’ city-funded housing projects cost an average of $350,000 per unit, with some projects reaching nearly $750,000 per unit.

Major cost savings came in the avoidance of red tape and other time consuming processes associated with government funding as well as the opportune purchase of the 10 acres on which the center is built. It was purchased at a bargain in public auction during a market downturn.

Moving in

According to Kent, the center is scheduled to move in its first two residents on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Due to coronavirus concerns, the center has created a plan to gradually move in residents working up to 25 percent capacity over a three-month period. Additional phases will be planned and initiated as appropriate for the developing pandemic.

The next phases

With phase 1 complete and ready for tenants, Father Barry and the other Mary’s Village partners are poised to begin the next two phases of the men’s center.

Phase 2, the construction of eight duplexes on 2.89 acres, is scheduled to break ground within the first quarter of 2021. It will provide housing for 16 men as they advance out of the dormitory-style living of the early stages of Mary Center’s 12-to-24-month program.

Phase 2 is projected to cost $2.5 million, with $1.8 million funded by San Manuel.

The third phase, scheduled to begin in 2022, will build a neighborhood of 16 affordable single-family homes for rent by men transitioning into self-sufficient living. This phase is projected to cost $4.5 million.

When complete phases 2 and 3 will provide housing for 16 additional men each.

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