Affordable housing for homeless nears groundbreaking, fundraising goal

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A rendering of the site behind Legion Stadium that will become Lakeside Reserve, a 40-unit affordable housing complex. The Good Shepherd Center is a little over $1 million from fully funding the $5 million project. Courtesy images.
A rendering of the site behind Legion Stadium that will become Lakeside Reserve, a 40-unit affordable housing complex. The Good Shepherd Center is a little over $1 million away from fully funding the $5 million project. Courtesy image.

As it gets set to break ground on an affordable apartment complex for the homeless, the Good Shepherd Center is also nearing its target for funding the project.

A recent $100,000 grant from Live Oak Bank means Good Shepherd is now just about $1 million shy of the $5 million it needs to build the housing development, SECU Lakeside Reserve.

The 40-unit development is so named because of State Employees Credit Union’s (SECU’s) $1 million contribution to the project—an effort to end chronic homelessness—earlier this year. With that gift, and a combination of private and public grants and contributions, Good Shepherd garnered about $3.5 million and decided to turn to the community at large to help make up the remainder.

The Champion McDowell Davis Charitable Foundation – a Wilmington healthcare-related organization primarily focused on senior citizens and the homeless – stepped up in March and gave $75,000. The addition of Live Oak’s recent donation means Lakeside Reserve, a decade in the making, is moving ever closer to fruition.

“This gift will go a long way in helping us close the gap on the remaining $1.2 million needed to complete the project,” said Jane Birnbach, Senior Development Director at Good Shepherd Center.

Plans for Lakeside Reserve got underway a decade ago, when the Adrian B. Rhodes Armed Forces Reserve Center identified under federal law as suitable to be reused to serve the homeless. File photo.
Plans for Lakeside Reserve got underway a decade ago, when the Adrian B. Rhodes Armed Forces Reserve Center identified under federal law as suitable to be reused to serve the homeless. File photo.

Good Shepherd has been quietly raising funds for Lakeside for a little more than a year. The group’s plan to create permanent and supportive housing for homeless individuals with disabilities, including the elderly and military veterans, actually got underway in 2006. The concept, aimed at helping the most vulnerable in the community, was prompted by the closure of Adrian B. Rhodes Armed Forces Reserve Center. The building, located behind Legion Stadium, was identified under the federal Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994, which mandates reuse of bases for the purpose of assisting the local homeless population.

Under the act, the property was ceded to the City of Wilmington, which was then responsible for demolishing the building and handing over the site to the proper party. That demolition work was completed in 2014.

A groundbreaking ceremony later this summer will signal the start of construction on Lakeside Reserve’s first phase, a 16-unit building that includes a community kitchen, shared space and offices. While moving tenants into those one-bedroom apartments, Birnbach said work will begin on the second phase: six buildings with four apartments each.

When the first residents of Lakeside Reserve move in next year, Birnbach believes it will be the beginning of long-term change that, while crucial in their own way, temporary shelters like Good Shelter’s cannot accomplish.

“Affordable housing is really the only way to find a solution to homelessness,” she said.

Rent at Lakeside Reserve will be set at 30 percent of a resident’s monthly income, so some form of employment or government assistance is a requisite. A person who receives $700 a month in aid or as a part-time employee, for example, would have a rent payment of $210.

A case manager will be onsite and residents will have access to free transportation, enrichment activities and educational programs like financial literacy.

It’s a model Birnbach said agencies across the country are already adopting. And it’s one that impressed Live Oak Bank.

“Our approach to lending is much like Good Shepherd Center’s approach to ending homelessness: Be an expert in your field, provide premier products and services and always put people first,” the company’s vice chairman Lee Williams said. “The Good Shepherd Center is the largest provider of homeless services in the Cape Fear region and we are thrilled to come alongside them as they launch the SECU Lakeside Reserve.”

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.