Affordable housing provides key to success

February 05, 2018 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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U.S. Bank provided funding to renovate and expand an overcrowded homeless shelter in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Most mornings, we take our keys upon leaving the safety of our homes without giving it a second thought. After all, for most of us, it is just a key; but it means the world to Marigold.

Marigold has been homeless most of her life due to loss of income and mental illness. In early 2016, she became a guest at the Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Dorothy Day Center, where she slept on the first floor mats before moving to the bunks on the second floor. 

“On the floor, it’s cold. It’s always cold,” she said. “It is really uncomfortable, you never are comfy or warm on the floor.”

For over 20 years, the shelter experienced overcrowding, with up to 250 people sleeping inches away from one another on floor mats. In 2013, Catholic Charities unveiled a two-phase plan to expand its shelter capacity, offer permanent housing and provide the services individuals need to transition from homelessness to a stable life. 

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul counted 9,312 homeless people in Minnesota in 2015; however, it estimated that 15,000 are actually homeless on a given night, and 40,000 experience homelessness in a given year. There were 3,665 homeless people in Hennepin County and 1,787 in Ramsey County, where Dorothy Day is located.

The first phase was completed in 2016, and the second and last phase broke ground in late 2017. The whole project, expected to cost $100 million, was funded through a partnership between public and private sources.

Through its subsidiary U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), U.S. Bank made an investment of $34.2 million in equity raised from federal New Markets and affordable housing tax credits for both phases. In addition, U.S. Bank provided a $6.2 million commercial loan to Catholic Charities.

“Housing is key, but not enough,” said Lynn Craghead, senior vice president of affordable housing at USBCDC. “This project is unique because it takes care of the whole person by offering health, social and employment services, which are fundamental to ending recurrent homelessness for many people.”

Furthermore, the U.S. Bank Foundation donated $1 million to the building effort and U.S. Bank President and CEO Andy Cecere is co-chairman of Catholic Charities’ capital campaign.

“Higher Ground is an example of how a great public and private partnership can strengthen our communities,” added Zack Boyers, chairman and CEO of USBCDC. “I’m proud that U.S. Bank is a partner in this vital effort to care for the homeless.”

USBCDC’s affordable housing and new market investment created 139 Single Room Occupancy units with shared kitchens and baths, and 54 housing units that provides a smaller private room with shared kitchens and baths. 

The second phase includes an additional 177 units of permanent housing, 48 short-term “pay-for-stay” shelter beds, and a Veterans Resource Center. The new Opportunity Center will provide a kitchen and dining room, medical clinic, job training and employment support. 

“When all of a sudden they come in, they have a key, they have a mailbox, they have a place to sleep, they can really begin to recover from the trauma of homelessness,” says Jerry Lauer, senior program manager, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

For the first time in her entire 45 years, Marigold found a home, at one of the Higher Ground Residences, where she holds the key she needs to move towards a brighter future.

“I am ready,” she said with a smile. “Just having my own space, really having my own space, will make such a difference.”

Marcherie Vázquez is assistant vice president of strategic communications for U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation.