Century Villages at Cabrillo has appointed its newest executive director, Kimberly Wee, following the departure of Steve Colman, who recently announced his retirement after 20 years with the organization.

Although Wee began her new role on Monday, she has been with the Villages community since 2000. Most recently, she has served as Century Housing’s vice president of residential services, a role she will hold concurrently as executive director.

Apart from her work with the Villages, she is the co-chair for the Long Beach Continuum of Care Board and a member of the End Abuse Long Beach Board. She also recently served on the board of directors of Leadership Long Beach. Both Wee and Colman are alumni of the Leadership Long Beach Institute.

Century Villages at Cabrillo focuses on affordable, supportive housing for people who have experienced homelessness. Residents of the Villages typically connect to the community through the Multi-Service Center, Long Beach’s hub for homelessness services, and are placed in housing that meets their needs—either temporary shelter or permanent affordable housing, depending on availability, Wee said.

Apart from receiving permanent supportive or interim housing, residents can receive services such as health care, case management, job training and benefit assistance, which is accomplished with the support of numerous partnering agencies.

Plus, residents can even participate in recreational events from cooking to gardening classes.

A headshot of a blonde woman wearing a blue shirt, blue jacket and silver and blue necklace.
Kimberly Wee began her role as executive director at Century Villages at Cabrillo on Aug. 21. She has been with the organization for 20 years. Photo courtesy of Century Villages at Cabrillo.

“We don’t want to make every interaction with our residents about a meeting with their case manager or an appointment that they have to be at,” Wee said. “We want them to really engage in the community, get to know their neighbors, feel comfortable and have pride in their own community. … And, you know, if they see their case manager in a different way at a coffee talk meeting or a fun event, then it’s a little bit easier for them to come to us when they really need something.”

Although today’s community encompasses over 1,500 residents, including families, individuals, youth and veterans in mostly permanent housing (in 2022, 669 of Century Villages’ 1,797 residents in transitional and permanent housing were veterans), it began over two decades ago with just about 200 residents, primarily veterans, in temporary shelter.

Every change since then has been intentional, Wee said, from expanding capacity to increasing services.

“We follow a collective impact model … making sure that any new partner, any new resource, anything we do really, will help contribute to that ultimate goal, which is to provide stable housing for Long Beach residents who have experienced homelessness,” she said.

According to Wee, this involves frequent input from residents. Through monthly meetings with a resident council, Century Villages staff is able to address any concerns and make changes if possible, Wee said.

“They’re the ones that live here, that’s their community, and they have a pulse on what’s happening and what they need,” Wee said. “We’ve changed our security company because of them. … We’ve changed the format of our meetings. … Their newest request is that we set up a neighborhood watch, and so we’re working with them on that.”

Over the past couple of years in particular, the Villages has worked to adapt to shifting needs, including expanding intensive case management, mental health, behavioral health and substance use services, issues which have all grown particularly since the pandemic, said Wee.

Later this year, the Villages will expand once again, with the arrival of the community’s newest addition, The Cove, which will include 29 units set aside for low-income veterans, apart from 60 supportive units for specifically formerly homeless veterans, Wee said.

As Century Villages at Cabrillo enters its next chapter with Wee leading the effort, she said she hopes that the growth will continue, with residents’ needs continuing to be at the forefront.

Although the Villages is limited to its 27 acres, there are still opportunities to expand within its gates, Wee said, from changing and upscaling buildings to house more people, and improving amenities.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, “I really feel like we have a good, clear path to getting there,” Wee said. “But also, I really look forward to continuing the work that Steve Colman did in building this community.”

Colman served as executive director for the past 10 years.

“I have a great passion for the work we have done and will continue to do at the Villages and take great pride in all we have accomplished together,” said Colman in a statement. “There is still much more than needs to be done to address the ongoing lack of decent and affordable housing. I am confident that our leadership team will continue to make wise choices and champion collective impact for the benefit of our residents.”

Over the past 25 years, Century Villages at Cabrillo has become an effective model for affordable housing, Wee said.

“Long Beach has a gem here,” she said.

“I often do tours and we hear people walk on the site and go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not what I expected,’” Wee said. “I’m so glad that we can surprise them with how beautiful the community is, how great the residents are, how helpful the staff and our partners are, and it really is a great resource, and we’re hoping to continue to grow and change with the needs of the residents in the future.”

Get in touch with Century Villages at Cabrillo here.