By Kat Anderson
March 26, 2012
The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) and Larkin Street Youth Services celebrated the grand re-opening today of the Aarti Hotel, which provides 40 affordable units for formerly homeless, at risk Transition Aged Youth.
Following an uplifting musical program by Larkin Street Glee, TNDC Executive Director Don Falk addressed about 100 guests in the verdant Tenderloin National Forest (a previous alleyway alongside the hotel transformed into a sustainable green/art space).
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Aarti Hotel – supporting 40 foster youth in partnership with Larkin Street Youth Services,” Falk said.
The youth came from Larkin Street’s Routz program, formerly homeless at-risk youth with mental health needs. The residents range in age from 18 to 24.
Falk explained that in 1981, TNDC bought the Aarti Hotel, built in 1907. “Back then, a group of young activists were going to do something to address the poverty around them. They bought this property, kicked out the squatters, and brought their debris boxes.”
TNDC has been a leader in affordable housing ever since. Falk comments, “Ten years ago, TNDC was one of the first groups to develop permanent affordable housing for homeless youth.”
Now, the City is on board with the initiative to meet the needs of at-risk youth. Olson Lee, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing said that the City is committed to the goal of creating 400 units of housing for at-risk by the year 2015.
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim commented, “We’ve achieved 10 perecent of that goal with the opening of the Aarti Hotel.”
Kim praised this partnership as bringing together the strongest experts in culturally competent services to youth – TNDC, which operates 31 affordable housing buildings, Larkin Street Youth, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Department of Public Health. Kim reconfirmed the commitment of the community to guarantee the success of the Aarti Hotel’s programming for Transition Age Youth, and her intent to “fight in our budget process to fund projects such as these.”
Larkin Street Executive Director Sherilyn Adams observed the beauty of the property. “We are standing in this beautiful, remarkable forest to celebrate housing 40 formerly homeless youth needing mental health services…Aarti is a beautiful home, here to help youth reach their full potential.”
Adams introduced Meredith Hardesty, age 22, a Routz program client that has become a peer counselor and who moved into the Aarti four months ago. Hardesty shared that she has struggled with severe anxiety and has been institutionalized “at every level of care.”
“I wanted to get help and I asked for severe therapy,” Hardesty said. “I was treated at the Metropolitan State Hospital. I got out and now I live here in the Aarti Hotel. Thank you for coming to this grand celebration.”
Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE) was on-hand for the event. Adams honored Dufty for being one of the first advocates of housing for at-risk LGBT youth.
After the program, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of some of the clients’ rooms and common areas. Guests were treated to lunch from a taco truck.