March 1, 2012; Source: Mission Local

More than 100 years after it was first built, a San Francisco convent got a second opening last week at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where it gained designation as supportive housing for low income residents. According to Mission Local, the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services invested four years in financing the repurposed structure and smoothing concerns of other neighborhood residents to open the building, which is already home to people of twelve nationalities.

The opening was also a tribute to Eric Quezada, a housing advocate and former Dolores Street Community Services executive director, who died last year. The 52-unit single-room occupancy hotel, located in San Francisco’s Mission District, will be called Casa Quezada. Mission Local notes that the audience for the new facility will be individuals “earning 16 percent below the area median income, or about $11,200 a year” and that residents will have access to 24-hour support, including meals and counseling services. Reflecting on his own good fortune as a new resident, a man who identified himself as Reyes told Mission Local, “Imagine, compared to the street and the shelter, this is heaven.”

Apparently, the concern about the opening is based on the fact that there are already 50 SROs located in the neighborhood, some of which are managed privately while others are managed by nonprofits. “The neighbors’ issues mostly stem from assumptions people make about the homeless population,” Dolores Street Community Services Executive Director Wendy Phillips told Mission Local. “Some of the tenants struggle with mental illness, while others are day laborers and people who can’t afford to live in the city,” she added.

Since its opening Casa Quezada has already hosted one neighborhood watch meeting for neighbors and others might follow. Dolores Street Community Services opened Casa Quezada as a collaboration with support from Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center. –Anne Eigeman