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Lazarus Project offers homes for homeless

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Founded in 1998, the Lazarus Project, Inc., owns four houses where Placer County’s homeless can get back on their feet. The first of those homes opened in 1999, and housed six homeless men, said Lincoln resident David Loya, executive director of the Lazarus Project. Since 2002, three more homes have opened, including one for women, according to Loya. All those homes are located in Roseville, but open to homeless throughout the county. “We can help guide them, and they’ll take the ball and run with it,” Loya said. In the homes, area homeless are required to do their cooking and cleaning, as well as attend mandatory meetings, adhere to a drug- and alcohol-free policy and learn employment skills. House residents are also given the opportunity to go to school and get their general equivalency diplomas. The Lazarus Project recently started collaborating with Goodwill to employ some of the houses’ residents, Loya said. Since the project’s inception, more than 350 homeless have gone through the houses, and their success rate is about 80 percent – meaning four out of every five end up achieving a steady income and permanent residence, according to Loya. “They rise to the challenge,” Loya said. “We’re there for them when it’s going good, and we’re here for them when it’s going bad.” Though Loya said he believes the homes are an excellent resource – and much more economical in the long run than shelters – getting funding to buy houses is difficult at best. Though eligible for federal grants for $1 million, Loya said there must be local funding before the grant money is released, and there are no city funds or faith-based funds available. There are, however, ways the average citizen can help out. Since the house residents do their own cooking, there is no need for anyone to come in and prepare food, but the actual food products are always needed. “We need canned corn, beans, spaghetti…anything you and your family would eat,” Loya said. In addition to food, Loya said skilled volunteers are needed to help out with marketing and to serve as mentors. “We need the same types of things small businesses need,” Loya said. Though the four houses are open to county homeless, they are almost always full. “If I had 10 homes, I could fill them all tonight,” Loya said. When the homes are purchased, they are usually not in top-notch condition, and the Lazarus Project makes repairs to them. “These houses aren’t a blight on the neighborhood,” Loya said. “We don’t allow sex offenders, and any of these people could be your family member.” Loya added that he thinks it’s better for the homes to be occupied than to sit vacant. To contact the Lazarus Project, call David Loya at 772-6833 or visit the Web site at lazarusprojectinc.org.