.A New Home

Housing Matters opens Casa Azul, its new permanent housing for homeless individuals

Porter Hoover is a man of few words, describing in his deep Missouri twang a life of battling drug addiction, homelessness, stints in prison and the recent death of his mother as “kind of crazy.”

Porter’s life will become more stable in one important way on Monday. He is one of seven people who will move into Casa Azul, a permanent housing unit created for homeless people who have experienced disabling medical conditions.

“It’s a hell of a battle,” he said Thursday, standing in the gleaming new kitchen in his single unit. “Every day is a battle. This is a miracle. I feel good, but I’m a little scared; it’s something new and I just want to do the best I can.”

Hoover stands in his new apartment as Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley, left, take a tour. PHOTO: Todd Guild

Set in a 120-year-old Victorian home, Casa Azul at 801 River street is the first piece of property owned by Housing Matters, which offers a wide range of supportive services to homeless people. The organization runs the Rebele Family Shelter, located across the street.

Housing Matters CEO Phil Kramer said that the permanence of the new facility marks a new direction for the organization, which previously offered only temporary and transition housing. 

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It is also a precursor to the Harvey West Studios, a 120-unit permanent housing project located behind the Rebele shelter that is expected to break ground in the summer.

“Casa Azul will be a calming, healing environment for people who have experienced chronic homelessness,” Kramer said. “Tenants in this building are community members from the Housing Matters Recuperative Care Center, who suffer from one or more disabling conditions and have experienced homelessness for a year or more. Easy access to supportive services is necessary to help them stay successfully housed.”

Housing Matters acquired the property in 2019 and began a $ 3 million renovation effort to create two one-bedroom apartments and five studios.

The renovation was funded through donations and grants, including a $2.24 million Project Homekey award by the State of California, in collaboration with the County of Santa Cruz. 

New Way Homes, Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz County Bank, Common Spirit and Kaiser Permanente also contributed.

The facility will be managed by the John Stewart Company, a multifamily property management company.

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