Irvine Community Land Trust to Revitalize Adult Group Homes Through New Partnership

By Catherine Sweeney 

Through a newly formed partnership, Irvine Community Land Trust will be providing affordable housing service to adults with special needs. With the addition of two Santa Ana group homes to its portfolio, the nonprofit organization will be completing an 18-month revitalization process at the properties to help provide updated services for those living there. 

The properties, also called the Horwitz and Mandel Houses, are located at 1621 Portola Avenue and recently came under Irvine Community Land Trust’s ownership in May. They had previously been owned by the Jewish Federation of Orange County, which has offered group living services at the properties since 2014. Through a new partnership, however, Irvine Community Land Trust will assist in providing affordable living solutions and services to its residents while still helping implement the homes’ Jewish history. 

An additional nonprofit organization, Momentum, which was formerly the United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, is helping to manage the homes and their support services. Momentum began providing services at the homes in July. 

“It is Momentum’s mission to advance the independence, productivity, and full citizenship of all children and adults with disabilities and medical conditions,” Lori Anderson, president and CEO of Momentum, said. “We couldn’t be more excited to revitalize that commitment in these homes with history and deep religious roots.” 

Mandel House was first opened in October 2014, with Horwitz House following shortly after in 2018. The houses total 2,701 square feet and each contain room for six adults. Prior to their use as group homes, the 1960s-era properties served as single family houses.

Funding for the acquisition and revitalization came from private donors, and will offer residential programming inclusive of personal care, educational support and more. The group homes are also fully accessible and offer both single- and double- occupancy bedrooms, free wireless internet and television. Trained professionals, physicians and in-house nurses will also assist residents throughout the day. In addition, Momentum owns a fleet of wheelchair accessible vehicles to help residents have access to the larger Orange County community. 

In general, Momentum provides a range of services across its locations. Currently the company manages 22 group homes across five Southern California counties. 

“In addition to staff, there are many volunteers from community organizations who provide activities. During Covid, one volunteer created a ceramics project for the residents, and dropped off all needed materials to each of their homes. Donations from the Jewish community continue to support activities for the residents. A physical fitness volunteer comes once a week and takes residents to a nearby park. While the homes were founded to provide a Jewish cultural component, they are open to residents of any background and non-Jewish residents have lived there and loved it,” Barbara Cohen, a parent of a Horwitz House resident, said.

The group homes were initially started by parents looking to provide an independent living solution for their kids with special needs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many residents to return to living at home, and Irvine Community Land Trust soon took ownership of the properties in efforts to rebrand and reopen them for further use. While previously only providing affordable housing developments, the organization was looking to expand its reach to meet the needs of those with disabilities at the time the opportunity came about. Despite the new ownership, the Federation continues to offer Jewish cultural programming, though the houses are open to residents of any religious background. 

The Jewish Federation of Orange County is a nonprofit organization with a mission to care for those in need while also strengthening the Jewish community in Orange County, which is home to approximately 100,000 Jewish people. The organization was founded in 1965 and is one of the nation’s fastest-growing Jewish communities.

Irvine Community Land Trust, was initially founded in 2006 by the City of Irvine. It has since created 407 affordable housing units, with an additional 68 set to open in 2022. Since 2017, the organization has been operating independently of the City of Irvine as a way to expand its reach in Orange County.  

“The relationship between the Irvine Community Land Trust, the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Momentum shows how community partnerships can provide housing for individuals in need of both affordable housing and special services,” Nancy Donnelly, a board member with the Irvine Community Land Trust said. “The individuals and families benefiting from this partnership are experiencing what is possible when community organizations follow their mission, work together and maintain a focus on a positive outcome for the individuals we are here to serve.”