Help for the homeless is here!

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BY COLLEEN JANSSEN: Homeless veterans in Westminster and Midway City now have a place to go for housing and other assistance. American Family Housing has opened Potters Lane at 15161 Jackson St. in Midway City.

“We have sixteen units,” said Donna Gallup, President and CEO. “One is for the on-site manager and 15 are for chronically homeless adults.”

“We offer eight for veterans, two for veterans with less-than-honorable discharge, and five for vets preferred. We have a coordinated entry list and are looking for the most vulnerable.”

BY COLLEEN JANSSEN: Homeless veterans in Westminster and Midway City now have a place to go for housing and other assistance. American Family Housing has opened Potters Lane at 15161 Jackson St. in Midway City.

“We have sixteen units,” said Donna Gallup, President and CEO. “One is for the on-site manager and 15 are for chronically homeless adults.”

“We offer eight for veterans, two for veterans with less-than-honorable discharge, and five for vets preferred. We have a coordinated entry list and are looking for the most vulnerable.”

“We received our certificate of occupancy and expect to receive approval from the housing authority, with residents moving in this week,” Gallup added. “We already have eight identified occupants who are currently living in our interim housing.”

American Family Housing, also known as AFH, already has 52 properties and works to remove barriers to housing.  While many places do not allow pets, AFH allows the chronically homeless to keep their pets.  For many, the pet is their only "family" member.

“I have picked out the unit I want,” said Jim Palmiter, 60, a Vietnam vet who has been on the streets for five years. Holding his 2-pound dog, he has been waiting for Potters Lane to open.

 “Fifi and I are ready to move in.  A lady stopped by and asked what I need, then brought Fifi a bed and other items. Isn’t that great?”

“I am looking forward to having a place and the security of not having to move-on, just because someone tells you to. It’s a lot rougher on the women. Most places help the men. I think they should throw the men out and bring the women in.”

“We have plans for a women’s shelter,” said Steven Forry, chief development officer for AFH. “We can take women vets here, but are planning another property just for women. We have plans to expand Potters Lane to Stanton, Santa Ana, and Tustin.”

“I came to work here 98 days-ago,” added Forry. “It’s the best decision I ever made.”

His job is fundraising and he explained that donors can go online to make donations for the project through Amazon.com.  Donors can choose to sponsor items like paper towels, coffee, and other items.

During the interview, a group showed up early to bring a promised sponsorship check for $25,000. Representatives from the Rhynard Family Foundation included Pat Rhynard Millard, Mary Boyd, and Janice Rynard Halikis whose funding sponsored the offices and meeting area at Potters Lane. The foundation was started by the father and uncle of two of Pat and Janice.

Another sponsor of the project included one member of the AFH board of directors, who donated $5,000 to sponsor the Glenn, Mendy & Ashley Williams room, which, coincidentally, is the unit Palmiter wants.

“Supervisor Do has been behind the project from the beginning,” said Gallup. “We are working with the County of Orange to secure additional funding for the project.”

Potters Lane is constructed from recycled single-use shipping containers. A company in Los Angeles renovates the containers, adding electrical cabling and other utilities, creating three units that work together, then installs them on-site. 

“The rooms have a double bed, chair, chest of drawers, kitchen, restroom and more. Members of a local Church of Latter Day Saints made a quilt for each room, which adds some color and a warm, home-like feeling.

“This is the first of its kind in the nation,” said Gallup, of the shipping container building. “We have two units that are fully handicapped-accessible, with five that are adaptable. There are seven units on the ground floor and nine above. The rooms are 480 square feet, 20 by 40," he added. "The shipping containers are excellent, providing strength in an earthquake, are energy-efficient, and low maintenance.  They won’t need painting for 100 years. Even the wood-look in the front of the building is not real wood. It won’t fade.”

The studio-unit rooms feel spacious and bright with a great deal of natural lighting. In addition to the individual rooms, there is a laundry facility, community room for gatherings, and a community garden where residents can grow their own food.

“Along with Illumination Foundation, we help veterans find benefits to which they are entitled. This helps them pay their rent.”

The foundation also subsidizes rent if needed. Residents have a lease that outlines rules and expectations, and the on-site supervisor oversees the property.

“We work to create a sense of community, even holding a monthly event called Potters Hands Dinner. The board members bring the food and spend time getting to know the residents,” Gallup said.

In addition to the new housing, AFH provides counseling by masters-level interns, a food pantry for emergencies, Illumination Foundation services and interim or bridge housing.AFH employs homeless individuals on their maintenance team.

Community members and groups who would like to help, may contact American Family Housing in Midway City at 714-897-3221 and find out more about the housing program at www.afhusa.org.