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Orange County Focus

HUNTINGTON BEACH : Apartments a Haven for Single Mothers

August 29, 1994|DEBRA CANO

Single mother Michele White is among the lucky ones.

"I have something I can call my home and I don't have to deal with the stress of living with other people," said White, mother of 2-year-old Anthony. "I've never had my own house."

White, 24, is among eight single mothers with young children who recently moved into an apartment house on 11th Street--a 70-year-old complex that has been transformed to a place these parents can call home.

The women are part of a city-sponsored program called Project Self-Sufficiency, which helps single mothers get off government subsidies, go to school and find jobs. It's the only program of its kind in Orange County.

The city bought the apartment complex with redevelopment money and turned it over to a nonprofit organization that now owns, manages and maintains the building.

A celebration at the apartment complex Friday commemorated the partnership between the city and the private sector. A local priest blessed the homes, and city officials, business leaders and residents lauded the effort to provide low-income housing.

"The ones who got in here are the fortunate ones," said Susan M. Edwards, the project's director. "It's one of the answers to welfare reform."

Tim Shaw, executive director of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force, said he hopes the program is a growing trend in the county.

"It provides contact for the community and it's the only way you can change their perceptions," Shaw said, explaining that all too often, people oppose projects for homeless people in their neighborhoods.

"The neighbors are going to see that this is a well-run development and that the people here are no different than any of their other neighbors, and they're going to come away with a different perception."

The Orange County Community Housing Corp., which owns the building, invested $120,000 to renovate the apartments--including new plumbing and electrical wiring, paint, carpeting, doors and period fixtures from the early 1920s.

"It was a posh apartment complex when it was built and it's posh again," said Allen P. Baldwin, the housing corporation's executive director. He expects such projects to blossom elsewhere. "We're happy this one is done, but the job is not done. There will be another one, we just don't know where today."

The women pay monthly rent of $250 to $300 as well as their utility expenses. They go to college, and some work part time to make ends meet.

For women such as White, who gets $474 in welfare assistance, the apartment project is a life-saver.

White, who pays $250 in rent on her four-year lease, said she would not be able to live on her own anywhere else. Now, she said, she has money to buy groceries and pay for gas and electricity bills. In addition, she can attend Golden West College without interruption. She is studying to become a psychiatric nurse.

"It just makes me feel like I can achieve the goals I have set for myself," she said. "It's given me a better outlook on life."

Her new home also has given her a special camaraderie with the other women in her situation. "I have friends here, and we all support each other," she said.

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