July 21, 2006

Victorian Heights is now a better place for struggling families

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

When women want to start a new life with their children after living through the hell of domestic violence, they need a safe, reliable place to live.

That’s the only way these women and children will overcome the physical, mental, and financial challenges they have to face as victims of domestic violence.

Recently, thanks to the help of local building industry leaders, an apartment complex in National City that has served as stable housing for many families that have experienced violence at home has received major renovations.

Victorian Heights, a transitional housing project that serves homeless women struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, and domestic violence, had its ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its reopening after a complete renovation sponsored by HomeAid San Diego, Standard Pacific Homes and 39 trade partners.

South Bay Community Services, a community development organization whose mission is to provide help to families in the South Bay, purchased the aging Victorian Heights in 2001 and it has continually been at full capacity with a waiting list.

In the Spring of 2003, SBCS contacted HomeAid San Diego the nation’s largest provider of shelter beds for the temporarily homeless, for help to repair and renovate the property.

HomeAid then contacted Standard Pacific Homes, one of the nation’s most successful homebuilding companies, which in turn contacted 39 trade partners to give Victorian Heights the much needed face-lift.

“Their dedication has created a remarkable, new environment for our residents to call home and realize their potential in,” said Kathie Lembo, South Bay Community Services Executive Director.

For Brian Utsler, Standard Pacific Homes’ San Diego Division President, the opportunity to help a social services agency continue its mission was worth all the work, which took almost two years to complete.

“We are gratified to know that we are supporting the mission of South Bay Community Services not only by providing them a safe, upgraded facility, but also in enabling them to concentrate in providing life-changing services rather than on building and capital campaigns,” he said.

Standard Pacific Homes and its trade partners donated almost all of the labor and materials needed to complete renovation.

Mark Read, President of the Board of HomeAid of San Diego, said that “it is inspiring to experience the generosity of the building industry in supporting HomeAid projects and the dedication and passion of our non-profit care provider partners.”

According to Katie Ray-Jones, director of Family Wellness and Self-Sufficiency Department for SBCS, the eight families currently living in the renovated Victorian Heights complex are looking forward to a brighter future.

The aging Victorian Heights was transformed from an ordinary, small apartment complex in need of repairs into a neighborhood, model property.

Each apartment was also outfitted with new kitchens, baths, furniture, flooring, among other details.

Ray-Jones said that currently there are about 25 children living at Victorian Heights. For them, a “Kids Clubhouse” was created featuring a homework and computer learning center, a play area for young children and family counseling space.

“This is something to feel good about,” she said.

Families in the program can live at Victorian Heights for up to two years, said Stymie Ohlson, director of development at SBCS.

After completing that time, about 70 percent of the families go on into stable housing, Ray-Jones said.

The apartment complex also has an onsite manager and onsite office.

About the benefits that the renovations will bring to the South Bay and the good labor that Standard Pacific Homes and their trading partners have done at Victorian Heights, Ohlson said: “We have nothing but good to say about them. The quality of their work went beyond their duty.”

Currently there’s a waiting list for Victorian Heights. But if you would like more information about this and other South Bay Community Services program, call (619) 420-3620. Their 24-hour hotline is 1-(800) 640-2933.

Return to the Frontpage