A well-known soup kitchen in Southern Arizona, Casa Maria, is entering the housing market.

“Casa Maria launched a campaign to try to raise $7 million for 365 units of affordable housing in the city of South Tucson,” says Roxanna Valenzuela, Casa Maria’s Community Organizer.

In that effort, Casa Maria purchased El Camino Motel, located off 4th Avenue and I-10 Frontage Road, with plans to turn it into an affordable housing complex.

“Rent has gone up astronomically and people are being priced out, displaced, with nowhere to go,” says Valenzuela. “We want to provide safe, affordable, dignified housing for people that are facing homelessness.”

Valenzuela says renovations are expected to cost around $400,000.

“We recently had a fundraiser to honor our volunteers and our donors, and with that money, we were able to raise enough money to start the renovation projects,” says Valenzuela. “So, we are looking at the next week or so to start demolishing, and we’re going to start with putting up a gate for more security.”

Casa Maria will work with El Camino’s current residents throughout renovations for those who wish to continue living at the motel. One current resident, Sandra Turner, says those who have opted to stay at the motel are eager for Casa Maria to move in.

“Well, it was pretty rough before Casa Maria bought the place,” says Turner. “I was telling people, ‘Hang in there, hang in there.’ A lot of these people have been here for three years, and I have been here for three and a half, so it’s like we’re a family; we look out for each other and help each other out.”

“It was a big relief when they bought this place because they care,” Turner says.

The new and improved El Camino will offer 20 units of affordable housing, rented out monthly to those who earn less than 80% of the area’s median income.

Valenzuela says this project is expected to wrap up and open to the public in August or September.