Mayor supports homeless village in Visalia

City Council approves letter of support for Salt + Light nonprofit to receive funding from U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo

VISALIA – The city of Visalia doesn’t have any more money to help its homeless residents get off the streets, but that’s not stopping them from finding other ways to fund projects by local nonprofits hoping to do the same.

At its Oct. 5 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously authorized Mayor Bob Link to submit a letter in support of Salt + Light to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for funding to help the faith-based advocacy group build a homeless village in or near the city limits. Salt + Light’s mission is to create an intentional community that lifts Tulare County’s chronically homeless neighbors off the streets. Their goal is to reinvent the perception people have about the chronically homeless, revitalize local communities by offering palliative relief to the homeless, reawaken the homeless to a sense of purpose and value through partnering with them; reconnect a human to human experience; and renew lifestyles of abundance by inspiring people to offer their best.

Adrianne Hillman, the founder of Salt + Light has chosen to predicate her vision of a community on the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First! Village model in Austin, Texas. Initiated by Mobile Loaves and Fishes founder and CEO Alan Graham, Community First Village has housed over 100 previously homeless neighbors, and is currently in Phase 2, which will total the village at 51 acres and over 500 tiny homes.

Salt + Light is looking to construct and operate it’s own multi-phase project. Phase I will include different elements to create community including micro homes with a community kitchen and wash house, park homes and missional residents. The second phase will include additional community amenities such as a community park, community table, living room, health clinic, community chapel, community library and bus stop. The third and final phase will include micro-enterprises that will provide opportunities for dignified income for those living in the village. This will include a marketplace, community amphitheater, catering truck, art house, workshop, garden, farm and automotive shop. In addition, more jobs will be created through maintenance, resident care and property management.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo announced in June that eight nonprofits will share $1 million in grants through its 2020 CommunityWINS grant program to create opportunities for people, including unsheltered residents, in communities across the U.S. to have a safe and affordable place to call home.

“This Wells Fargo grant program is a great example of an effective collaboration that will bring real solutions to help address local housing challenges,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Wells Fargo and our members share a deep-rooted commitment to communities across the country and we are thrilled that CommunityWINS will help to spur housing solutions in many cities.”

The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo have teamed on CommunityWINS since 2015, including $6 million invested by Wells Fargo over six years for nonprofits in municipalities across the U.S. Wells Fargo’s philanthropic strategy focuses on creating solutions to address housing security, small business stability, and consumer financial health and includes a $1 billion philanthropic commitment by 2025 to address the growing housing affordability crisis.

“As the effects of COVID-19 are disproportionately impacting people of color and low-income communities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo continue to support nonprofits’ efforts to create more affordable housing solutions in local municipalities,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “Wells Fargo is committed to the importance of home for everyone in our nation.”

Mayors representing USCM member cities can nominate up to three eligible nonprofit housing initiatives. Projects must address housing affordability solutions designed to increase availability and affordability of rentals, transitional housing, or sustainable homeownership. Grant requirements and the online application form are now available for submission at Nonprofits must submit applications by Oct. 9, 2020. Grantees will be named during the Mayor’s 89th Winter Meeting in Washington, DC.

The Wells Fargo/U.S. Conference of Mayors grant is a collaborative effort between these organizations to invest $1 million in cities to invest, strengthen and address housing affordability issues by supporting local nonprofit partners to cities of all sizes nationwide. Medium sized cities like Visalia, those with populations between 50,000 and 275,000, are eligible for an outstanding achievement award of $50,000 or the winning prize of a $150,000 grant.

Last year New Haven, Conn. was the top honoree among medium cities. New Haven’s Continuum of Care, Inc., statistical areas where homeless people are served, received a $150,000 grant for its Supported Training and Employment Program (STEP) for citizens diagnosed with severe mental illness and developmental disabilities. Started in 2016, STEP serves citizens with severe mental illness and developmental disabilities. The grant funds will be used for additional staff and equipment to expand the apprenticeship and training aspect of the program, which prepares participants for employment in fee-for-service cleaning, landscaping, moving and food services.

Last year’s outstanding achievement grant for medium-sized cities went to Duluth, Minn. Where nonprofit Ecolibrium3 was awarded $50,000 in support of its Innovation Zone Energy and Education Project. Ecolibrium3 provides solar power at the entrance of Duluth’s lowest-income neighborhood to offset electrical usage at the Duluth Veteran’s Place transitional housing project and to create an Emergency Energy Fund assisting residents at risk of utility shut-off. In addition, in collaboration with Duluth Public School, the initiative will pilot helping students learn from participating in community-based improvement projects and support a volunteer-based energy efficiency and healthy housing program.

The CommunityWINS grant program collaboration between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo follows a national alliance formed in 2011 to address foreclosure prevention, property disposition, homeownership promotion, and community development.

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