Homeless Shelter Now Environmentally Sustainable

A 100-year-old farmhouse in Placentia, Calif., that had been converted into a shelter for people who are temporarily homeless has recently been retrofitted to make it more energy efficient.

Placentia, Calif.—A 100-year-old farmhouse in Placentia, Calif., that had been converted into a shelter for people who are temporarily homeless has recently been retrofitted to make it more energy efficient. The project is supported by HomeAid Orange County and operated by Placentia Presbyterian Church, and was part of the national Environmental Sustainability Program created by HomeAid America and Walmart and suppored by Owens Corning.

The two-story building includes 13 bedrooms that typically house around 40 people, including individuals, couples and families, according to Scott Larson, executive director for HomeAid Orange County. However, this is no typical homeless shelter.

“The program is three to six months typically, and [care workers] work with them on core issues like finding employment, helping them repair credit, some of those fundamental issues,” Larson tells MHN. “It’s not a drug and alcohol rehab center. The people here are clean. People have to apply [to live here]. The other day I was there and they were bringing in a pastor and his family—his wife and two or three kids. [HomeAid] really takes an interesting mix of people from the community.”

Larson says that HomeAid looked to reduce energy costs for the building and to make it more energy efficient.

“The thing that we began to look were how is the house inefficient? What are the logical things we could do to make the house energy efficient?” Larson tells MHN. “We ended up doing was an energy audit. We looked at their energy bills to identify what were the worst areas of energy efficiency, and how do we maximize the investment that we wanted to make.”

After the audit, many areas of the farmhouse needed to be upgraded.

“There were so many gaps in the home, so we knew we needed to reseal the doors and calk and some very basic things that any homeowner should look at,” Larson says. “The ability to reinsulate the whole home was another very logical choice.  Also, we looked at the heating and air conditioning system, and to give you an idea of how inefficient they were, during last summer when it was 100 degrees outside, the air coming out of them was 90 degrees. So we brought in two new energy-efficient air conditioner systems.”

Other areas of the farmhouse that was upgraded include the refrigerators, which were replaced with Energy Star units, and the roof, which was replaced by Owens Corning. Energy-efficient florescent lighting was also added. Additionally, solar tubes were installed to create areas with natural light.

“The electrical bills range from $1,500-$2,000 a month,” Larson says. “The projections throughout the year are up to 80 percent or maybe higher off of those bills, so we’re looking at a significant savings over a year.”

Saving energy is good, but helping the community is also very important.

“It’s been great to bring not only a whole new physical look to the home, but helping them save money,” Larson says. “This [program] was designed to allow the non-profits to put their money into their programs—and the people—instead of the electric company.”