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‘I made it’: City celebrates opening of affordable housing near the traffic circle

For residents like Donnie Grimes and 75 others, the project has become a lifeline.

‘I made it’: City celebrates opening of affordable housing near the traffic circle
Donnie Grimes, a resident of the new 26 Point 2 affordable housing development, watches a baseball game in his apartment Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

For decades, Donnie Grimes bounced back and forth from prison to the streets where he lived out of his car. Gangs and drugs ruled his life.

Today, Grimes is sober and finally has an apartment to call his own inside the recently opened 26 Point 2 permanent supportive housing development on Pacific Coast Highway near the traffic circle.

Born in 1962, Grimes was the youngest of seven children growing up in Lynwood. He never met his father and his mother died early in his life.

“It was a lot of chaos,” Grimes said, adding that his brothers, who had a different dad and were born in Mexico, did not like him because his dad was white. “I was not loved by them.”

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Even before his mother died, Grimes said he was left alone a lot and was ultimately drawn into gang life and drug use. Before the age of 24, Grimes said he served stints in all the county facilities. After that he was in and out of state facilities, including San Quentin and Folsom.

Grimes’ final two prison stays bookended 10 years of living out of his car. The best thing that ever happened to him, he said, was getting pinched for his most recent incarceration because he finally connected with mental health services on the inside.

When he was released in 2018, part of his parole was to continue receiving mental health care.

He was still homeless but he kept receiving his care and reporting to his probation officer, who finally took Grimes to Redgate Memorial Recovery Center in Long Beach in September 2018. Grimes completed a two-week detox followed by a four-month residential stay.

Donnie Grimes, a resident of the new 26 Point 2 affordable housing development, speaks during a grand opening celebration for the project Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

After completing the program, Grimes entered a sober living home. Eventually, the home was in need of a manager and Grimes stepped up, allowing him to live there until he found his own living situation.

Planning for 26 Point 2, meanwhile, began five years ago shortly after the founding of Excelerate Housing Group by Dana Trujillo. Located at 3590 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., the project includes 76 studio apartments reserved for people making 30-50% of the area median income, or between $29,150 and $48,550, according to the city website.

“It brings me great pride that the first project we have completed at Excelerate is in the city of Long Beach,” Trujillo said during a grand opening celebration Wednesday, adding that most of the staff lives in the city. “We are delighted that we were able to increase the number of homes in our city and make those homes affordable to the folks who truly need them.”

It took 15 finance partners to make the $45 million project a reality, including the Long Beach Community Investment Company, the Los Angeles County Development Authority, the National Equity Fund, Lument and Century Housing, among others.

Residents of the new 26 Point 2 affordable housing development listen to city and industry leaders during a grand opening celebration for the project Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson praised the project Wednesday, saying it is “more than just rooms in a building … [it’s] support people need to thrive.”

“We have much more to do here in the city of Long Beach,” Richardson said of the need for more housing across the city to address the affordability and homelessness crises. “We need to do more of this.”

The project faced several challenges, not least of which were three long-abandoned oil wells that forced a redesign of the building. But in December of last year, construction finally wrapped.

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On December 23, 2023, Grimes moved into his own studio apartment at 26 Point 2. By March, the building was fully leased, according to Trujillo.

“Everything started falling into place,” Grimes said, noting that the onsite case management and mental health services provided by Harbor Interfaith Services are exactly what he needs to keep his life on the right track.

“Interfaith helps me a lot,” Grimes continued, adding that he needs help with paperwork as well as computer literacy.

Dana Trujillo, president and CEO of developer Excelerate Housing Group, puts a medal on Donnie Grimes, a resident of the new 26 Point 2 affordable housing project, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

During Wednesday’s event, Peter Enzminger, director of development at Excelerate, noted that the project was named after the distance of a marathon as an acknowledgement of the obstacles people face in life and how much more meaningful accomplishments are because of them and the perseverance to “just keep running.”

Grimes’ life has had no shortage of obstacles and now he is reaping the rewards of his determination.

“There’s no high out there that I tried that can top this,” Grimes said. “Just being at peace, having my own little place that’s not a cell. Being able to be productive and responsible and pay my rent. I’m not hungry, I’m not dirty.

“I made it. And today my purpose is to help another person.”

Today’s headlines:

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Over the past several years, the number of street vendors in Long Beach has grown significantly. Now, steaming hot tamales, fresh fruit and other foods could become even more abundant on city streets following City Council approval of…

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Clocked Out: The cheapest breakfast in town?

Kat Schuster • Jun 12, 2024

Long Beach, tell me your secrets. Where are you going for your no-frills, affordable breakfast? And by no-frills, I don’t mean Egg Heaven or The Potholder. They may brand themselves …

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