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Solutions for Change on track for campus expansion

VISTA — A proposed campus extension for Solutions for Change was approved on March 12 by the City Council.

The nonprofit, which focuses on homelessness, requested $2.7 million from the city to purchase two adjacent properties next to its headquarters at 722 W. California Avenue.

The council voted 4-1 in favor, with Councilwoman Amanda Rigby voting no.

According to the staff report, plans call for constructing permanent and transitional housing units, rehabilitating existing units, building an empowerment center, while the developer, Kingdom Development, would operate an emergency shelter on site.

About eight months ago, Solutions for Change completed another expansion project, this one increasing the size from 50,000 square feet to 240,000, said Chris Megison, co-founder of Solutions for Change.

“More importantly, we went from about 45 families helped per day, to almost 200 per day,” he said. “We’re now lifting 600 formerly homeless kids and their parents out of homelessness every day.”

Concurrent to the recently completed project, the nonprofit bought several properties around its main campus. The goal is to expand the front-end programs, Megison said.

In total, Solutions for Change acquired six properties to nearly double the size of the main campus. Through an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement, the city is committing $2.7 million, while the remaining funds will come from other sources, Megison said.

As for the groundbreaking, he said it depends on the tax credit application in July. If the application is approved, Megison said the project would be completed in about 34 months.

But if the tax credits are not approved, the project would be delayed by about six to eight months.

“Over the past two decades, we’ve pioneered a completely different model that is used to address homelessness,” Megison said.

He and his wife, Tammy, started the nonprofit in 1999 after the two met a homeless girl who asked if they also lived at an emergency shelter. He said the system then, and now, is “woefully inadequate” and the reason the couple started the nonprofit.

Since then, one goal has been to move away from churn and a government-based model for funds, resources and tools.

When the government required Solutions for Change to take in active drug users, Megison declined and gave up the government funds.

The new expansion will increase the footprint of Solutions University, a 1,000-day academy, along with two other programs.

“This will take it to 86 total families,” Megison said of the daily reach. “We’ve been running a shelter on East Vista Way … and we’re going to transfer that shelter function to the California (Avenue) campus.”

In addition, they will add another 18 transitional housing units and another 16 permanent units. The campus currently sits on 1.7 acres, which will double after the expansion.

Rigby did not respond to messages by deadline. During the March 12 council meeting where the council made its approval, Rigby said she did not feel comfortable with the terms, although she did not expand.

“We’ve worked really hard to get her comfortable,” Megison said. “We don’t understand it and we try really hard to get consensus.”

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