As builders and managers of affordable housing throughout Southern California, C&C Development understands the value that quality housing and services bring to each of our communities by providing the opportunity for both families and senior citizen residents to enhance their life and lifestyle. 
We know that the residents who live in our properties have compelling life stories to tell and we are helping them share their stories via a series of personal interviews titled “Helping People Live Better Lives.” Our third interview is with Joanne Munson, a resident of our Parc Derian apartment community in Irvine, CA. We greatly appreciate Joanne’s participation in this feature series, which we publish on a regular basis. We would welcome your comments at  [email protected].
Some might say that Joanne Munson has led a challenging life. Others might say she has led a difficult life. But when you talk with her about her life, there is no bitterness or animosity towards people she has known or situations she has been in.

Although she has been homeless for more than 30 years, she is a strong and determined person who faced the challenges and difficulties with a can-do spirit to not only survive, but to improve her life as best she could, one step a time.

Joanne’s biggest step was last year when she moved into our new Parc Derian Apartments in Irvine, CA, after spending much of her life sleeping on the streets, in homeless shelters and motels, on park benches, and even on beaches. She says she has lived in 14 different places since she left her hometown of Windsor Lock, CT, right after high school, all the while struggling with health issues including botched knee replacement surgery that pretty much crippled her, and type 2 diabetes.
Although she says she had no family for support, wherever she lived and whatever her conditions, she made it through, because, she explains, “I always stayed away from problems and stayed only with good people.” With her experiences, she believes she could write a book on how to survive homelessness.

The book would begin with the death of her mother, to whom she was very close, coupled with a short and troubled marriage. Along with dealing with depression from her mother’s death, she also had money problems and was eventually living solely off Social Security. She could not find any place to live that she could afford, and she began to have serious medical issues, starting with severe knee pain that incapacitated her, requiring knee replacement surgery.

The surgery did not go well and because of complications, she spent six months in a rehab center and then another six months in a nursing home because she could not walk. Although she slowly began to regain her mobility, it was limited but good enough for her to begin her journey of homelessness for the next 17 years as she made her way from the East Coast to California and even Hawaii for a couple weeks where she lived on the beach. But wherever she was, her constant homelessness resulted in even more daunting medical and financial problems.  
In 2009, after Hawaii, she arrived in Santa Ana where she was taken in by a caring family that operated a homeless shelter, where she lived and recuperated for two years. Next, she moved into a shelter in Anaheim where she lived for another two years; it was at this time that she heard about Parc Derian and thought it would be the best place for someone like her with disabilities.

As Irvine’s newest affordable housing property, Parc Derian was in great demand with a long interest list of lower income veterans, homeless and disabled people. Joanne entered into a special lottery for six of Derian’s apartments specially designed for d evelopmentally d isabled and fortune was on her side. She was one of the six applicants selected and, along with a homeless friend, moved into her new apartment in May 2018, the first real home she says she has had since moving out Connecticut 30 years before. 

How has her life been at Parc Derian? “I finally have a roof over my head in my own home and even celebrated my first Christmas here,” she says. “I have great neighbors and people here are very nice and very helpful. I am really impressed.” Finally, Joanne says she recently became the owner of an electric wheelchair to improve her mobility and full enjoyment in and outside of her new home.
Parc Derian workforce housing is a public/private partnership between C&C Development, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Lennar Corporation, the City of Irvine, and the Irvine Community Land Trust. Developed on a 2.2- acre urban infill site as part of Irvine’s inclusionary zoning plan, the 80-apartment community features almost a half-acre of open space. Twenty percent of the apartment units are designated for veterans.

With apartments ranging in size from approximately 635 to 1,203 square feet, monthly rents are significantly lower than monthly rents for comparable market-rate apartments in the Irvine area. To provide housing for residents with special needs, C&C Development and IHO partnered with Families Forward to set aside apartments that are designed for households that are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. Families Forward assists people in crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through housing, counseling and education.

C&C and IHO also partnered with the Regional Centers of Orange County and United Cerebral Palsy to set aside apartments for developmentally disabled residents. The organizations help residents with disabilities reach their full potential, improve their quality of life, and foster an attitude of acceptance and inclusion. Residents further benefit from social services such as health and education enhancement programming offered by Lighthouse Community Center and IHO that provide life enriching experiences to help Parc Derian residents grow stronger, and to assist adults and youth in improving and transforming their lives.