$7.1 million supportive residence readies for domestic violence survivors
WEST FARGO, ND – YWCA Cass Clay unveiled a new $7.1 million permanent supportive residence called Grace Garden today with the help of their collaborative partners, dignitaries and guests. The national CEO of YWCA USA travelled from Washington, DC for the event.
Grace Garden is located at 1480 E. 16th St. in West Fargo, ND. It has 30 apartments that will be fully furnished for the approximate 75 individuals and families who will move in by the year’s end. In addition to safe, secure housing, YWCA will offer case management and services at the site to support these individuals and families who’ve experienced violence and homelessness. Residents will have access to nursing care, an employment coach and other mentors to grow life skills. They’ll live close to schools, job opportunities and transportation routes. YWCA’s 29 years of experience in providing supportive housing has proven that these supports are key to success.
“The structure is complete. The rebuilding of lives begins. Here, individuals and their families will be empowered to reach a state of stability and live free of fear,” said Erin Prochnow, CEO, YWCA Cass Clay.
Grace Garden sits footsteps away from the office where a pastor’s servant heart set things in motion in 2016. Pastor Joel Baranko of Lutheran Church of the Cross approached Prochnow inquiring about unmet community needs and how the congregation could be helpful. She identified affordable housing as a crucial need and the conversation turned into action.
“I approached the conversation assuming more emergency shelter space would be the answer to how the YWCA might utilize additional property if made available. I quickly learned the value of permanent supportive housing. It was easy for the congregation to get behind the vision because of the YWCA’s history, leadership, and reputation for success in serving women and children,” said Pastor Baranko. “Together, we are changing people’s lives for the better not only today, but for generations to come.”
For many years, applications to YWCA Supportive Housing far outstripped the number of units available. Last year alone, 162 women and children applied for the program and only 22 were able to gain homes.
“In 2015, YWCA set an ambitious goal to double the number of homes through YWCA Housing within five years to address the lack of supportive housing,” said Prochnow, “With the addition of Grace Garden, we have exceeded our goal. Expanding to 70 supportive housing units is growth of about 270 percent in four years.”
The new housing is called “permanent” because it doesn’t impose a deadline for moving out. It allows residents time to gain stability only after resolving complete financial ruin by abusers or navigating single parenthood as the sole family income provider. For some, the timeline is lengthy and challenging, and having the permanent housing means vital stability so children can grow and learn in a safe and healthy environment while adults can pursue their life goals.
For the first time in the agency’s 113-year service to the region, its national association leader, Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA, was on hand to help celebrate the local organization’s milestone achievement.
“YWCA is one of the first and largest networks in the nation and world, serving more than
2 million women, girls and their families every year at over 200 local associations. As the largest network of domestic violence service providers in the country, we have a long history of providing services to survivors of violence from all walks of life.” said Castillo, “I am honored to be in North Dakota to celebrate our continued social impact and growth in our collective power with the dedication of Grace Garden.”
“Facilities like Grace Garden offer stability and safety, giving women facing poverty and homelessness an opportunity to build a secure future for themselves and their children,” said Senator John Hoeven. “Moreover, this residence, which provides access to both permanent housing and supportive services, is a testament to what can be accomplished when partnering federal and state agencies, and then leveraging that public investment to secure support from the private sector. We appreciate the hard work of the YWCA staff and everyone involved in making this project a reality, and we will continue working to advance similar efforts to help ensure access to affordable housing and a higher quality of life throughout our state.”
Multiple community partners joined in the planning, funding, and building of the residence. Gate City Bank pledged the largest single investment in YWCA Cass Clay history, $1.5 million to provide startup costs and the first 10 years of supportive staff services at Grace Garden.
“When we announced our commitment to the Grace Garden project in 2017, we were excited to build upon our long-standing partnership with the YWCA. Two years later, it’s humbling to see the project come to life. We are proud to see our gift provide the resources needed to help women and their children on their journey to a better life,” said Steve Swiontek, Executive Chair of Gate City Bank. “At Gate City Bank, we believe that it is our responsibility to make a difference in our community, For a Better Way of Life.® We accomplish this by investing in our customers, team members and communities. The Grace Garden Housing Project supports this mission through a proven program of education and employment coaching, health services and the support of YWCA advocates.”
Grace Garden was funded in a large part through programs administered by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA). The state agency awarded development assistance to the residence through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit, $672,500 in credit authority that brought $6 million in equity to the project, National Housing Trust Fund, $325,549, and the state’s Housing Incentive Fund, $500,000.
“Addressing North Dakota’s need for community-based permanent supportive housing is a development priority for North Dakota Housing Finance Agency,” said Jennifer Henderson, NDHFA’s Planning and Housing Development Division Director. “Projects like Grace Garden provide the women who are working to rebuild their lives with a long-term home that is both safe and affordable.”
The North Dakota Department of Commerce is supporting the land acquisition for Grace Garden through the Governor’s Community Development Block Grant Funds.
“Commerce is proud to partner with the YWCA Cass Clay on this permanent supportive housing project, aiming to address long-term homelessness, coupled with supportive services and demonstrated local support. Projects like Grace Garden are vital to our community and the individuals and families to which they serve” said Shantel Dewald, Division of Community Services Program Manager, North Dakota Department of Commerce.
Thanks to the financial support the project received, YWCA did not need to conduct a capital campaign to build Grace Garden. YWCA fundraised and organized a “Plant a Seed” campaign for household goods from toasters to towels to start families toward healthy futures.
The residence will receive rental assistance from the Housing Authority of Cass County through a $2.2 million, 15-year contract that provides 30 Housing Choice Vouchers to ensure every apartment will be affordable to the families who will call them home. Individuals and families will be asked to pay up to 30 percent of their income towards rent.
Grace Garden’s residents will come primarily from the YWCA emergency shelter and other referring agencies in the community. There are already 23 applications in process.
Construction on the two-story building began last summer and was complete in August 2019. The property will include one-to-four-bedroom apartments, a fitness room, community spaces for classes and gatherings, and a playground. Main floor offices will be home base for YWCA advocates, nursing and other professional resources coming onsite.
“Grace Garden is symbolic of an innovative and progressive movement to address homelessness. It is an investment in our community that will keep domestic violence survivors from resorting to returning to their abusers and solving a multitude of other challenges that accrue during crisis,” said Prochnow.
Government and organizations like YWCA invest in rent subsidies and low-cost housing so people have a place to gain sure footing, rather than making it the reward at the end of a set of steps like finding a job and saving for a deposit. Having access to supportive housing means fewer acute resources and costly emergency services are needed.
About YWCA Cass Clay
YWCA emergency shelter is where victims of domestic violence come day and night, 365 days a year, to escape crisis lives and mend emotionally, physically and spiritually. They receive crucial basics like food and clothing, and resources for education and employment as they navigate toward independence. A caring YWCA team connects women and children to community resources that will further empower them. Besides operating the largest emergency shelter for women and children in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, YWCA Cass Clay operates safe and affordable, short- and long-term supportive housing for low-income women. YWCA offers a food pantry, racial justice advocacy, and a nationally accredited public childcare center, A Child’s World. For more information, visit www.ywcacassclay.org.