Directly adjacent to the downtown railyard that was a destination for generations of itinerants, Sacramento dignitaries this week dedicated an eight-story tower with 150 residential housing units for the homeless and working poor.
The building at Seventh and H streets also contains a new WellSpace Health clinic on the ground floor to provide low-cost care for tenants.
Nonprofit developer Mercy Housing California, which operates more than 100 low-income apartment buildings across the state, said it worked with WellSpace Health, Sutter Health, the city, bankers and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to get the 150-apartment tower and health clinic built.
Half of the apartments are reserved for "previously homeless guests" said Sister Libby Fernandez of Loaves and Fishes, a major provider of homeless services nearby.
"This is a beautiful space where guests can come and find community, health care services and behavioral health support for a clean and sober life," Fernandez said.
The other 75 apartments are designated as "workforce housing" for people whose wages are so low that they cannot afford rent at market rates.
Becky Collins, property manager of the 7th and H Street Housing Community, said the mix of residents supports the "goal of providing a sense of commitment, friendship and holding each other accountable."
Homeless-service providers selected the first tenants with an eye toward those they thought would succeed in a residential living environment. Residents have to commit to not using alcohol or drugs.
The federal government contributed half the money for 7th and H in the form of federal housing tax credits, said Doug Shoemaker of Mercy Housing California.
Some of the remaining funding came from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act approved by California voters in 2004, said Claudia Cappio, executive director of CalFHA. Proposition 63 is a 1 percent tax on Californians who make more than $1 million to fund mental health services.
Approximately 300 people, including residents who had already settled in, were on hand Monday for a dedication that included catered food, speeches and socializing.
"This is what a tax on millionaires looks like," Cappio said, to cheers from attendees, "It looks great from here, doesn't it?"
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, helped in securing federal support for the project.
At Monday's dedication, she said society needs to make more of an investment to help the have-nots, particularly those who need behavioral health care.
"The gap is continually growing, and we must do more to address these challenges of homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and the need for job training," Matsui said. "I think any one of us could be in this situation at any time. It can happen."
Mercy Housing officials said the median annual income of a family renting one of their apartments in California is $15,344, or roughly $8.15 an hour.
The new building, yellow ocher in color, has terraces, balconies, computer rooms, media rooms, laundry facilities - and attractive views of downtown. It's also LEED certified, which means it meets various environmental benchmarks for new structures.
Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen predicted the surrounding Alkali Flat neighborhood where he lives will come to embrace the 7th and H project as an asset, despite the neighborhood's sometimes tense relationship with the homeless population that patronizes Loaves and Fishes.
"It's not an easy sell," Hansen said of adding permanent homeless housing to a community somewhat weary of transients in its midst. "But the people who will live here are proud, respectable people joining a neighborhood that prides itself on its identity and history."
Call The Bee's Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270. Follow her on Twitter @cynthiahcraft.