History and Background of Communities Advocating for Resident Empowerment


History and Background of Communities Advocating for Resident Empowerment

Communities Advocating for Resident Empowerment (C.A.R.E.) was created to provide children, youth, families and seniors living in affordable housing communities with critical social services and programs that reinforce self-empowerment, foster economic independence and encourage community involvement.

C.A.R.E. was formed through an association with Las Palmas Foundation (Las Palmas), a real estate development company specializing in the development and long-term ownership of affordable rental housing. In providing solutions to the affordable housing challenge, the principals of Las Palmas recognized that besides building safe, secure neighborhoods, that enhancing the lives of residents through social service programming is essential.

Las Palmas was organized in 1992 as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit housing corporation dedicated to helping communities rebuild for a brighter future by assisting low income residents with programs to address the critical needs of affordable housing. Las Palmas, located in Encinitas, California has sixteen years experience in acquisitions, entitlements, finance, construction and property management. Mr. Joseph Michaels, the founder and President has an extensive history in all phases of multifamily development, with an emphasis in affordable housing for over twenty years.

In 2002, Mr. Michaels and the Las Palmas team felt they were ready in their organizational development to move to the next phase of support. The goal was to provide supportive social and educational services to all of the residents living at the 26 Las Palmas properties scattered across California. The organization recognized that many youth, adult and senior residents needed and deserved more than just basic shelter. A ‘wrap around’ holistic model of care/service was developed. The vision was to provide culturally sensitive social services and educational programming that would positively impact the lives of those living at the communities. These services would be offered at no cost to the residents.

The initial phase began with the implementation of this holistic model of service, which provides service within the environment the residents live (on-site community centers were built at all of the affordable housing properties owned by Las Palmas). Las Palmas began by focusing on a local San Diego property, Summercrest Apartments, located in National City, CA, 10 miles from the Mexico border. Mr. Michaels partnered with two well established, third party social service agencies in the area (National City Collaborative and South Bay Community Services). After implementing a needs assessment of the Summercrest community, free services were provided to all interested residents.

Initial services included:

  • intensive case management for adult and senior residents
  • lunch program for the adults
  • summer lunch program for the youth
  • ESL classes for adults and seniors
  • health care services for all residents
  • five day a week after-school programming for the youth

During the first year of service in 2002, Summercrest Community Center served residents 5,230 times with various social services and resources. By the end of 2007, Summercrest Community Center served residents 16,326 times. We are proud to say in five years we have increased resources and services provided by 11,096.

The next phase in the expansion of the social services was capacity building. A Director of Social Service was hired in 2005. The Director took on the task of developing partnerships with service providers, overseeing site staff, and ensuring quality of service of programs at the 26 affordable housing communities across California (serving more than 4,000 residents). Slowly but surely by the end of 2005, culturally sensitive services began to be provided to the most needy low income populations at all of the properties. These residents included: single parent families, large families on public assistance, senior citizens living on a fixed income and mentally and physically-challenged individuals.

These programs and services were funded through social service budgets that came out of the income of the buildings. The services were designed to provide residents with new opportunities to learn, excel, reinforce self-empowerment, foster economic independence and encourage community involvement.

Services were provided in multiple languages and included:

  • mental health services
  • health services
  • technology/education classes
  • community advocacy
  • parenting classes
  • job training and placement
  • financial literacy classes
  • food distribution
  • child care

After the initial development of service provision, the next major challenge was the limitation and inconsistency in funds for services at many properties. Often Las Palmas was only able to utilize volunteers and/or non paid staff. This caused inconsistency in programming at certain communities. Whereas other communities had much more substantial budgets and a far more comprehensive model of service was achievable (example is Summercrest). This resulted in a lack of consistency in services and quality control.

As Las Palmas continued to provide affordable rental housing to the most needy of residents, they went into stage three of their social service expansion. In May 2006, the Las Palmas team strategically planned and developed an affiliate social service organization that would serve all of the affordable housing communities that are developed and owned by Las Palmas. The long term goal of this entity is to focus on strategic fund raising which would ensure expansion of all of the programming and services, support a sustainable model at all properties, and enable C.A.R.E. to continuously provide quality assurance. In addition, the organization would focus on raising monies that would support the creation of models of service that could become replicated at other sites as funding expanded. In April 2006, Las Palmas received its IRS determination letter for Communities Advocating for Resident Empowerment (C.A.R.E.).

The goal in this exciting new phase of service expansion is to ensure that every property has consistent, high quality social services based on the needs of the individual community and a holistic model of service. We want to ensure that we have sustainable services at every individual property, regardless of the budget of the building so that we can mobilize Californians in affordable housing communities to enjoy healthy, fulfilling lives.