This story begins on Christmas Eve, 1981, when Mercy Housing, Inc., was incorporated as a Nebraska nonprofit corporation, with the goal of helping low-income residents stabilize their lives and achieve their dreams. Omaha’s Sisters of Mercy had agreed to an initial investment of $500,000 after Sister Timothy Marie O’Roark proposed that the order adopt Affordable and Supportive Housing as a sponsored ministry. While serving as a legal aid attorney, O’Roark had witnessed first-hand the heartbreak of families facing eviction — and their lack of affordable options. She vowed, “We can do better.”
Now one of the nation’s largest affordable housing organizations, Mercy leads the way in creating program‐enriched communities that are stable, vibrant, and healthy, for families, seniors, and individuals with special needs. They are committed to incorporating the local community into the development process through a variety of means, including meetings with neighbors, neighborhood associations, and local leaders, as well as public meetings and regular written and electronic communications.
Then mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein, participates in the lottery for the residents of the first Mercy Housing community.
Moving Day (circa 1982): Anita was the first resident of Mercy Housing's first community — Mercy Terrace, in San Francisco.
The Sisters of Mercy in Omaha propose a concrete response to the affordable housing crisis in America.
A California Success Story
Burbank Boulevard Senior Housing
Seniors are among the most vulnerable in the homeless population and their ranks have surged in recent years. Mercy Housing California is the state’s most experienced owner of service-enriched housing for independent seniors, currently operating 48 senior communities with 3,400 apartments. Permanent Supportive Housing combines low-barrier housing, health care, and supportive services to help residents lead more stable lives. This model not only impacts housing status, but also results in cost savings for various public service systems. However, despite the benefits, affordable housing projects must often overcome resistance from surrounding communities.
As the Daily News reported in 2019, approval for Mercy’s Burbank Boulevard Senior Housing “came after a rocky start to an effort to build homeless housing options in Sherman Oaks, with some residents balking at potential homeless housing and shelter projects that [Councilman David] Ryu’s office had been exploring at two other sites.” After a city study, those initial proposals were ultimately dropped, but Ryu’s office later came back to champion Mercy’s senior housing project. “While it was met at first with apprehension from some residents, subsequent outreach done by the office has elicited a more positive response than with the earlier effort.”
The United Way of Greater Los Angeles also worked with the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council and city officials to try to build support for the project. Their Everyone In campaign promotes the construction of permanent supportive housing units.
Through persistence and expertise, Mercy overcame the resistance, and their vision is now nearing fruition. Burbank Boulevard will offer independent living for previously unhoused individuals who are over the age of 62, with wrap-around services including case management, service coordination, substance abuse services, links to vocational training, and health and wellness programming. In addition to the 54 studio apartments, the community features a management unit, a community room, social services and property management offices, laundry rooms, drought-tolerant landscaping, a roof-deck garden and subterranean parking. The 4-story, quarter-acre property at 14536 West Burbank Boulevard, near the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard, was built in accordance with the latest Cal-Green Building Code standards and is aiming for a minimum LEED® Silver Certification.
October 2, 2023
The JAG team’s designs for the rooftop deck, community room, interior common areas and offices convey a welcoming atmosphere for previously unhoused seniors. We are very proud to be associated with developers who are committed to ending homelessness, and our collaboration with Mercy Housing has been extremely rewarding!
What We Are Building: Mercy Housing California is currently constructing a whopping 17 new communities with permanent supportive housing throughout the state. Once complete, these residences will provide homes to about 1,590 individuals and families and expand Mercy’s reach in high-need areas such as Los Angeles and the East Bay Area.