Hundreds Find Hope in San Diego's New East Village Affordable-Housing Tower

The 14-story, 407-apartment tower is expected to be an affordable home for 500 people or more.

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Shomari Morris looked out the window and exhaled. He finally had hope after struggling with homelessness for so long.

“The cost of living was killing me,” said Morris, who shared that he lived on the streets before recently getting space in a San Diego shelter.

On Thursday, he stood inside one of the new affordable apartments on the third floor of the Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa at the corner of Commercial and 14th streets in San Diego's East Village neighborhood. Morris recently signed a lease and will move in later this month.

“Ever since I was told I was going to get this place, I’m like, ‘Oh, no — I want to stick this out!’ ” Morris said with a smile.

The apartment building was officially dedicated Thursday morning. The 14-story, 407-apartment tower is expected to be an affordable home for more than 500 people.

The community is now move-in ready with units that will serve veterans, seniors, people with disabilities and families. Rental housing vouchers from the San Diego Housing Commission will help pay rent for 270 households that experienced homelessness before they moved into Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa.

An additional 133 apartments are affordable for households with income up to 60% of the San Diego's area median income. All of the apartments will remain affordable for 55 years. The development also includes four managers'
units.  A 24-hour on-site guard is one of multiple security features, and approximately 2,760 square feet of commercial space house on-site property management, social service staff and resident-related amenity spaces.

Each apartment includes cabinetry and counters, kitchens and private bathrooms. The community will be LEED Gold-certified and will be powered in part through solar panels installed on some of the building's rooftops.

“Today’s a great day — God is good,” exclaimed Deacon Jim Vargas, the president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, which owns and operates the building named after Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

The deacon also approved of the building's namesake.

“And how apropos is that?” Vargas asked. “This is a woman who spent a life taking people off the streets so they can be in dignity.”

The building's hundreds of homes are a big step toward Father Joe’s goal of 2,000 residences to help with San Diego’s homeless problem. More than 7,600 San Diegans experience homelessness every night, according to the nonprofit. Vargas said the new homes will help.

“That’s what it’s all about," Vargas said. "That’s what breaks the cycle of homelessness."

The Father Joe Carroll Memorial Promenade in front of the building is intended to honor the memory of the late Father Joe Carroll, who died in July 2021, and "highlight the humanity of those experiencing homelessness,'' a statement from Father Joe's read. The promenade and its statues, which include a tribute to namesake Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were designed by designer and architect Jowaan Lee from J2 Ventures.

The Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa will also provide tenants with financial, educational and health assistance. Vargas said 95% of the people who Father Joe's Villages help find permanent housing are able to successfully break the homelessness cycle.

“Father Joe’s has always helped out with stuff like that, definitely,” said Morris, who excitedly took pictures of the empty apartment.

He can’t wait to move in.

“I’ll probably open the window and scream,” Morris said with a laugh.

The City News Service contributed to this report — Ed.

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