A former Santa Monica motel on Santa Monica Boulevard has been transformed into a more long-term residence, providing a home for young adults struggling with mental illness.

Through a program of Step Up on Second, a Santa Monica-based social service organization, homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 28 who are experiencing initial symptoms of mental illness have the opportunity to receive permanent supportive housing, along with support services.

The permanent supportive housing project is an addition to the Step Up on Second program Daniel’s Place, which offers support groups and other services to help youths and their families cope with mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Step Up marked the opening of its new $2.4-million housing project Daniel’s Village, an eight-unit facility at Santa Monica Boulevard and 26th Street, during a ceremony Friday, September 11th.

Tod Lipka, Step Up on Second chief executive officer, expressed excitement at the opening of the facility, saying “these projects are like gold.” The organization says the program is the only one in the Los Angeles area that provides permanent supportive housing specifically to young adults struggling with mental illness.

“This is an opportunity for recovery, providing not only a home but support services to help them become active participants in society,” Lipka said. “It’s about providing a community to the people hereÖ and providing broader support to help people reintegrate into the community.”

The Daniel’s Place program was named in honor of the late Daniel Greenberg, a scholar, humanitarian and member of the Step Up Board of Directors whose name is also carried on with Daniel’s Village. The housing project was funded largely by the City of Santa Monica, as well as the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

Lipka said that the Step Up organization is indebted to the city for its contributions.

“The City of Santa Monica has been there from the very beginning with financial and philosophical support,” he said.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who attended the grand opening ceremony, said Santa Monica has been at the “cutting edge” of finding progressive solutions to problems such as homelessness. He referred to the wide reach of homelessness in the county, but added that projects such as Daniel’s Village help address the issue on an individual basis.

“If we look at it as one person at a time and help one person at a time, then it becomes a soluble problem,” the supervisor said. “Even though it’s only seven units, it’s seven more units than we had yesterday,” he added of the Step Up housing facility.

The building houses seven units for youths with mental illness who have been homeless in Santa Monica, and one unit for a live-in case manager dedicated to working with members on site. Each unit provides a bathroom, kitchenette, cable TV and wireless Internet access.

Referring to the services offered to young adults, Dr. Marvin Southard, director of the county Department of Mental Health, said officials have expanded the population that can receive support.

“We’ve expanded that circle; we’ve made it wider as we’ve included homeless youth with mental illness,” Southard said.

The opening of Daniel’s Village would also have significance to its namesake, who supported the specific goals that the project aims to provide, said Jonathan Greenberg, Daniel’s brother.

“I’m certain that he would be immensely honored and immensely proud to be affiliated forever with such an important initiative and organization, because it is so much what Daniel was about,” Greenberg said.

One of the seven new tenants of Daniel’s Village became emotional when speaking of the changes that the organization has made in her life.

Leslie Moreno, said she used to fear going outside and didn’t understand why. She says she knew that she had to ask for help and found it through Step Up on Second, which has finally given her a safe home and the confidence to go back to school to better her life.

“Now I have a place to call home where I feel safe and can come to where I know I’m not alone,” Moreno said.