Emilio is a 66-year-old veteran from New York City. He was homeless prior to moving into a new affordable housing unit that recently opened in downtown Renton called June Leonard Place.
He’s traveled a lot, from Alaska to Peru, but he’s been staying at the Salvation Army William Booth Center in Seattle when staff helped him get the paperwork together to move into permanent housing.
He said he’s noticed while the apartment building is new and looks great, it can take also take a beating.
“A lot of these people are used to tearing up the place, me included. I see it’s built towards us, and for wear and tear,” he said. “It’s beautiful, it really is.”
Emilio squeezed in as the elevator got more crowded to head from his apartment down to the first floor April 8, the day of the grand opening. He and other tenants were trying to navigate around the many people viewing the apartment complex.
He met a staff member from Puget Sound Energy in the elevator who knew Emilio by name.
“I heard you’re going to be speaking,” he said to Emilio.
Emilio said he was nervous about the presentation, which included thirteen others who took to the podium to honor the grand opening.
More than half of the 48 units are already leased at a new affordable housing apartment complex in downtown Renton, next to Harambee Church.
The June Leonard apartments, part of the Low Income Housing Institute, were named after the former Renton School District board member, state representative and founding member of Renton Area Youth and Family Services.
The complex caters to families and veterans who are homeless and low-wage workers.
It includes three studios, 20 one-bedroom, 20 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom apartments. On the first floor is a large meeting space, play-area, lounge and a shared kitchen. The building also has a sustainable “green” design that earned them an award from Puget Sound Energy.
Pastor Caleb Mayberry from Harambee Church spoke at the event. The church, with the help of REACH, has been making its building available to homeless families for seven nights a week for several years in Renton.
Mayberry said he’d hoped for the day some of those families could find beds in June Leonard. Now one family who stayed at the church is living in the apartment complex.
Mayor Denis Law spoke at the opening about when Sharon Lee from Low Income Housing Institute showed him their Bellevue project.
“The fact we can have something of this stature in Renton to deal with homelessness and needs in our community is wonderful,” Law said.
It costs tenants 30 percent or 50 percent of their monthly income, including if they’re on public assistance or VA benefits. It adjusts to the income of the tenants to make it permanently affordable, Lee said.
The housing being permanent is something Emilio said he finds remarkable. He likes being able to cook for himself, walk to Safeway and fast food restaurants and do his own laundry, even if the machines are so advanced, they require an app to use.
He also said it’s odd to walk around and see folks sleeping on the streets around his new apartment. Emilio said some of the people on Renton’s downtown streets are also hoping to get into the apartment.
The apartment manager is really hands-on and helps the tenants, Emilio said. He also said he likes the variety of people in the apartment and it can feel like one big happy family.
He’s also thinking about how the last place he’ll ever live is brand new. He said it makes him feel like he’s in a coffin, in a good way. In a secure way.
“I hope to stay here another 10, 20 years,” he said.
The apartment is located at 215 Whitworth Ave. South. More information on the building can be found here.