Jennifer Campbell compares her community to a colorful patchwork quilt. In her eyes, individuals from different walks of life are woven and sewn together to create the diverse society that surrounds her.
At one point in her life, Campbell was a special-education teacher who taught in Philadelphia before retiring in 2006. When she moved to Los Angeles in 2016, fate wove Campbell into a life of homelessness.
“I come from streets, from a homeless situation– from nothingness,” she said.
Her homeless struggle came to an end when she received a Section 8 voucher and was given residence in an old church that was converted into a senior-living complex.
The church is now known as Immanuel Place, located at 3215 E 3rd St. in Long Beach. It is a three-story renovated church, which features 24 one-bedroom units. Immanuel Place also offers an additional 15 units for pre-selected homeless individuals, such as Campbell.
On the outside, Immanuel Place has kept the aesthetic look of the old church. However, the rooms inside are highly updated, and the building is equipped with solar thermal water heating panels and high-efficiency lighting and appliances.
Last week, Long Beach officials spoke during a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted in the halls of Immanuel Place.
“The project supports our goals of neighborhood revitalization and is a terrific addition to Bluff Heights,” said 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce during the ceremony. “The grand opening of Immanuel Place is an exciting time for our community.”
Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including a loan from the Long Beach Community Investment Company, an Affordable Housing Trust Fund loan from the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, an Infill Infrastructure Grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and Affordable Housing Program loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and an equity investment by Union Bank through an allocation of tax credits from the Tax Credit Allocation Committee.
In total, the project had a budget of $13 million. It was officially built to meet Build It Green’s Platinum GreenPoint Rated New Home Multifamily certification standards, which is a nonprofit organization that partners with contractors to influence how homes are built or renovated in California.
Thomas Safran and Associates (TSA) spearheaded the renovation project. The organization has built over 6,000 units of rental housing in California, according to a Long Beach City press release.
Andrew Gross, TSA president, spoke to the Signal Tribune shortly after the ceremony about the challenges the company had to face to complete the Immanuel Place renovation.
Gross said he was initially told he could not build in the area because of the pushback by neighbors. Eventually, members of a local neighborhood council agreed to the project.
To garner the funds needed for the project, Gross said his company had to partner with City entities and Clifford Beers Housing– a community housing development organization to develop affordable housing.
Other challenges that impacted the housing project were the unstoppable forces of nature. In 1933, the church sustained significant damage from an earthquake. It was rebuilt in 1934.
“Earlier this year we had this street backed up because of floods here in Long Beach,” Gross added. “Water went into the basement and we had to figure that out, which we did.”
Despite the obstacles TSA members had to work around, Gross said the most memorable part of the project was walking into the main hall and hearing music flow out of the original organ that was kept after the project was complete.
The music from the organ can still be heard by Immanuel Place’s residents, such as Campbell. She shared her thoughts about a patchwork quilt with the ribbon-cutting attendees last week.
“This is Immanuel Place,” Campbell said. “A patchwork quilt of our community that is interwoven into the fabric of our life.”