The Primavera Foundation used to offer its emergency housing services in a dilapidated old building with tiny rooms, crumbling walls and little natural light.
By the end of this summer, that already-demolished old building at 702 S. Sixth Ave. will be replaced with a 10,000-square-foot resource center far better suited to handle the thousands of Pima County residents needing help.
The pandemic has increased need tremendously here, said Primavera CEO Peggy Hutchison, with more residents either at risk of homelessness or already experiencing it. The new building is more than twice the size of the old one, she said, and offers help in a “much more dignified space.”
The change follows a record year for Primavera, due to the pandemic.
People seeking services for eviction prevention, utility assistance, and rapid re-housing increased 40% during the first year of the pandemic compared to the non-pandemic year before, jumping from 997 people needing help from March 2019 to March 2020 to 1,398 people from March 2020 to March 2021.
The agency spent close to $2 million on hotel rooms for people during the first year of the pandemic, Hutchison said.
“Many of them were in hotels and motels due to the lack of affordable housing and trying to get people off the street to be safe from COVID,” she said. “We already had a housing crisis before the pandemic.”
The new building, designed by architects from Tucson firm Poster Mirto McDonald, includes wheelchair accessibility on the first floor, mail services, computer access and an expansive courtyard where people can rest and visit.
It will also be much more energy efficient than the old building, said Brian McGrath, Primavera’s director of facilities management, with LED lighting and plenty of windows for natural light. There will be multiple spots to store bikes for employees as well as for people seeking services.
“We are encouraging people to ride their bikes to work or use public transportation,” Hutchison said.
People will also be able to get medical checkups and dental screenings from visiting El Rio Health providers there in rooms that will provide privacy.
Additionally, there are multiple office spaces and meeting rooms for Primavera employees to provide services, and room to store food boxes and other essential items people need.
The Primavera Foundation started out here in the early 1980s with the opening of a men’s shelter and it has expanded since to offer job training, affordable housing and help for formerly incarcerated men and women.
The new project, unanimously approved by the Armory Park Neighborhood Association, has been talked about for a while, McGrath said, but it wasn’t until an anonymous donation of $1 million came through in 2019 that it started to come together. They are hoping to raise up to $3.7 million to help complete the project.
Primavera is one of eight sites included in the Tucson-Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness. These sites offer help with immediate needs, such as getting food and hygiene products, as well as a place to receive mail and messages, find out about emergency shelter options, employment and housing help, and eviction prevention services including rent and utilities assistance.