Ground breaks on future site of housing for Wilmington’s homeless

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Groundbreaking at the SECU Lakeside Reserve affordable housing development for the homeless. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Groundbreaking at the SECU Lakeside Reserve affordable housing development for the homeless. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

WILMINGTON – After a decade of planning, ground broke Friday next to Greenfield Lake on an affordable housing complex for the homeless.

Spearheaded by the Good Shepherd Center, which works to feed, house and help citizens in need in Wilmington, the 40-unit development has been funded by a combination of government agencies and private companies. The official name of the complex is the SECU Lakeside Reserve, named for the State Employees Credit Union, which donated $1 million to the project.

“I think this is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership,” said Jim Johnson, Chairman of the SECU Foundation. “Credit Union members understand the importance of this project and its significant impact on the community.”

The land, located directly behind Buck Hardee Field on the grounds of the city-owned Legion Stadium complex, was once home to the Adrian B. Rhodes Armed Forces Reserve Center. In 1994 the federal government passed the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act, which required that bases be re-purposed to help the local homeless population. The property was ceded to the City of Wilmington, which was responsible for demolition. The building was razed in 2014.

“Everybody loves to hate government,” Wilmington Mayor Pro-Tem Margaret Haynes said. “But this is a marvelous example of how government can work.”

Paul Fisher, a United States Army veteran who was the 50th graduate of Good Shepherd’s Eugene Ashley Transitional Living Center for homeless veterans, said the center would be a good thing for people who were in similar situations.

“I know what it’s like to be homeless. It’s not a good feeling. People look at you kind of strange,” said Fisher, who said his alcoholism led to him living in the woods at one point in his life. “I hope everybody will just remember what the real purpose of this is, and that’s to be there for someone who really needs it.”

Fisher said due to the help he received, he was able to make changes in his life. He now has a job and will be taking college classes this fall. Good Shepherd Center’s Executive Director Katrina Knight said Fisher’s story was an example of the good that can come about from providing housing to people who need a hand.

“We know more than anyone that being homeless doesn’t say anything about you,” said Knight. “It’s not a moral failing.”

She said addressing homeless and affordable housing in the city could be difficult, but was a necessary thing for the community as a whole.

“When you propose ‘affordable housing’ in Wilmington, it triggers a lot of reaction, including comments about ‘those people.'” Knight said. “‘Those people’ are our coworkers, members of our families, anyone who has hit a run of tough luck.”

Friday’s groundbreaking is for the first 16 units of the development. Residents at SECU Lakeside Reserve will pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent. The development will have an onsite case manager and residents will have access to free transportation, activities and enrichment programs such as financial literacy.

In addition to the SECU, other funders of the project include the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Live Oak Bank and the Champion McDowell Davis Charitable Foundation, among others. Though public and private support, the Good Shepherd Center has raised $3.9 million of the $5 million needed for the project and is looking for help to get the last $1.1 million. To find out more about the organization and how you can help, visit their website.

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