Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that Fresno County and local developers will receive $15.3 million to purchase and rehabilitate a motel complex on Blackstone Avenue to house people experiencing homelessness.

A total of $147 million in statewide grants were announced Friday.

The money is part of Project Homekey, a $600 million state initiative to flip underutilized hotels and motels across the state into interim and permanent housing. The grants are awarded on a rolling basis. This was the fourth round of awards and the second pot of state money for motel renovations in Fresno.

“Behind every allocation we make for Homekey is the story of a Californian who will no longer have to sleep in a tent, in a car, or on the street,” Newsom said during a Friday news conference.

Fresno County, alongside developers RH Community Builders and Upholdings, will flip Hotel Fresno, formerly known as the Smuggler’s Inn, according to Department of Social Services Program Manager Laura Moreno.

The 204 hotel rooms will become emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness until the developers flip the property to fit about 160 units of permanent housing — including studios, one-bedroom, and maybe two-bedroom homes — in spring 2021, Moreno said.

Those units will become available for people experiencing homelessness and on the verge of homelessness, as long as they meet an income requirement. The county hopes to transition people staying in Fresno’s temporary COVID-19 shelter beds into the new units, she added.

“A low vacancy rate has been the issue. This is going to give us at least 160 units we will be able to place people in. So that is going to be just ideal,” Moreno said. “It’s a godsend, really.

The hotel’s central location along Blackstone Avenue will allow residents quick access to retail — it’s across the street from Manchester Mall —and resources such as the county’s behavioral health clinic and a new resource center that Fresno Rescue Mission is developing, Moreno said.

The county and its partners are looking to close escrow by early November.

The Fresno Housing Authority was awarded a similar grant on Sept. 22 worth over $7.6 million to convert Motel 99, formerly known as Motel 6.

Manuela Tobias is a reporter with The Fresno Bee. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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Manuela is a reporter at The Fresno Bee covering income inequality and economic survival for the California Divide. She is a former staff writer for PolitiFact, where she covered politics, health care...