Stoll House: From Transitional Housing to Permanent Housing (non-supportive)

Stoll House Apartments has played a unique and transformative role in Many Mansions’ history.

Stoll House is our third developed property and our third smallest property. Its 11 units consists of 3 one-bedroom, 7 two-bedroom, and 1 four-bedroom units, located just off Hampshire Road in Thousand Oaks. It opened on January 20, 1998.

While this property has been relatively quiet over the past few years, this was certainly not the case for most of its history. Indeed, for many years this single property dominated the organization’s attention: its attention  for services, property management, applicant processing, finances, fundraising, resident relations, and community relations.

Indeed, Stoll House very much represented ‘the heart of Many Mansions.’ For much of the community, staff, and Board Stoll House was Many Mansions.

Stoll House’s outsized importance derived from it being operated (1998-2014) as a transitional housing facility for homeless families. In 2015 it was re-designated as permanent (affordable) housing.

While Schillo Gardens was Many Mansions’ first new construction project, Stoll House was Many Mansions’ first new construction project that was developed by Many Mansions staff (not Board) members.

The community greatly supported this development. The property was originally named ‘Community House Apartments.’ In the mid-1990s the City of Thousand Oaks Housing identified in its Housing Element ‘housing for homeless families’ as one of its top priorities. We took up this challenge and purchased the land and the architectural plans already in place for the construction of an 11-unit apartment complex. The City and the County of Ventura were two of the project’s early financial supporters. Later funding came from the State (HOME funds) and tax credits (Edison was our first investor).

There was a wonderful groundbreaking and grand opening. More importantly, many individuals and community groups and organizations (e.g., churches, synagogues, services clubs, individuals, etc.) contributed to furnishing the units with furniture, appliances, clothing, food, etc. Because of Otto Stoll’s on-going and substantial contribution to Many Mansions as a community leader and Board member, the Board re-named the property ‘Stoll House.’

Over the next 16 years (1998-2014) we operated this property as a transitional housing facility and assisted hundreds of residents —residents transitioning from homelessness to housing, instability to stability, unemployment to employment, failure to success.

Our case management program was intense. Program participation was a condition of the residents’ housing. Our on-site case managers worked individually and in groups with all the Stoll House residents. The residents worked on life-skills, job development, education, computer skills, other areas for improvement. Sometimes a portion of their rent would go to a separate savings program for future housing. The overriding goal was for the resident to transition to permanent housing (at first, to permanent housing outside of Many Mansions). We prohibited alcohol and set a curfew. There were no overnight guests.

We have had Board members and staff members come from Stoll House.

Unfortunately, there were many challenges and problems with Stoll House as a transitional housing facility.

First, the property lost money each year—money which had to be funded by Many Mansions.  The cost of operations and programs were quite high, while the property’s revenue was quite low. We relied upon substantial government grants (e.g., FESG, ESG, CDBG, CoC, etc.), donations, and private grants, but even these were not enough.

Second, the constant turnover put a strain upon our Property Management staff. Since a resident could only live at Stoll House for 1-2 years, we had to constantly re-fill the units. Finding qualified applicants who wanted to live in a structured and confined housing environment was a challenge. We frequently had high vacancies–imposing more strain upon the finances.

Third, the nature of the residents changed. Our early Stoll House residents were mostly single mothers with children who had been housed, suffered some traumatic event (sudden divorce, spousal abuse, etc.), found themselves and their children unhoused, and just needed temporary housing (and some time) to ‘get themselves back on their feet.’

Over time, though, we began to house residents who were chronically homeless, had drug and substance abuse issues, came from  incarceration, needed greater assistance than we could provide, and were often resistant to participating in our programs. Drug usage (and dealing) became a problem.

Additionally, transferring to permanent affordable housing became a difficult goal to achieve. Housing, including Many Mansions housing, was scarce. As a result, several of our Stoll House residents left Stoll House without securing permanent housing and slipped back into homelessness.

Beginning in 2012 the federal and state government stopped funding transitional housing programs. Embracing the ‘Housing First’ model, the governmental agencies believed that transitional housing was ‘too expensive’ and ‘unnecessary’ since homeless persons should just be placed into permanent supportive housing (why have the ‘transitional’ step?).

Because state and federal grants represented over 50% of Stoll House’s revenue, we asked for and received permission to convert Stoll House from transitional housing to permanent housing (non-supportive).

Stoll House remains a very special property for Many Mansions and the countless hundreds of lives which it has assisted.