Yreka breaks ground on housing: 'My hope is that Siskiyou Crossroads project will be the start'

Yreka breaks ground on housing: 'My hope is that Siskiyou Crossroads project will be the start'

Skip Descant, Special to the Siskiyou Daily News


Construction has begun on a new multi-unit housing development in Yreka, set to bring much-needed affordable homes to some of the community’s most vulnerable.

“It really is a special day when you get to hand over the keys to that household, or that individual who’s had so many challenges or barriers to getting that housing,” said Beth Matsumoto, director of development with Rural Communities Housing Development Corp., a private nonprofit dedicated to developing and managing housing for residents with limited incomes.

Matsumoto was speaking during the ground-breaking event on May 2 in Yreka for the No Place Like Home housing development, a 50-unit supportive housing project for low-income residents, and the chronically homeless. The project is being led by Siskiyou County and will be owned and managed by Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation. The $26 million project is funded with a combination of public and private funds. The Yreka project will be the seventh supportive housing project in rural northern California, operated by Rural Communities Housing Development.

For its part, the No Place Like Home project has been several years in the making, and has not been without controversy as local residents have expressed discomfort with the idea of mixing chronically homeless residents, who may be suffering from mental illness, with low-income residents. In a series of public meetings, county officials have sought to calm these concerns, assuring the community the residents selected for No Place Like Home must first, want to be there, and secondly, will receive a range of supportive services.


Still, the project’s location on Foothill Drive was questioned due to its distance from downtown and other services.

None of those concerns were on display as about 75 local officials and other residents gathered for the ground-breaking, and offered gratitude for housing that will be available in about 16 months.

Nancy Ogren, a county supervisor who spent some 30 years working for Pacific Power on Main Street, recalled the numerous homeless residents who often walked past her office windows.

“Through those windows, I also have seen a story unfold over the years that touched me in ways that I never imagined,” Ogren told the crowd gathered on the windy construction site.

“I would watch the same people walk the sidewalks of Main Street everyday. And those people became familiar to me. I learned some of their habits, and their stories. And I would witness their good days, and their bad days,” said Ogren. “I would see them for years before they would just disappear. And sometimes I would hear the stories of their demise. And sometimes not.”

It was a story not far from the minds of anyone who has visited downtowns in cities as small as Yreka and as large as Los Angeles, as the state tries to manage a growing crisis of homelessness, coupled with escalating housing costs.

Yreka is not without its housing challenges. A recent study by the consultant Planwest Partners found that 39% of households in the city are paying more than 30% of their income toward housing. This statistic jumps to 64% when considering low-income households. The typical home value for Yreka is $239,238, according to Zillow, up 21% in the last year. And to afford a median-priced home in Yreka, a household needs an income $110,000 annually. And an analysis of housing in unincorporated areas of the county shows 31% of all households are earning g less than $35,000 annually, and 23% of all households are earning less than $25,000 annually.

“So now, here I am on the other side of that window,” remarked Ogren. “And now, I’m not just looking at the problem, but I’ve jumped right into the middle of it.”

“I’ve always believed that it takes a village to raise a family. And I believe that the collaboration of our county agencies and departments, along with the city of Yreka… will produce a project worthy of the praise of this community,” she added. “And in a county strapped for housing of all types, my hope is that Siskiyou Crossroads project will be the start of an upswing in building throughout this region and that the people we will serve will get the services and the support they need to move forward.”

Skip Descant is a freelance journalist. He’s written for newspapers in California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He lives in downtown Yreka.