Gate City Bank announced a $1.5 million donation over the course of 12 years to help a housing project come together with a third partner, Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo.
Last year, YWCA and the church shared plans to explore a 30-unit home for women and children who are leaving the YWCA emergency shelter, but still needing a supportive place as they rebuild their lives.
Gate City Bank’s $1.5 million donation announced today will provide the necessary funds to cover project start-up costs for the building process, such as architectural and site services. The gift will also cover the full program costs for the first 10 years once construction is complete, from 2019 to 2029. The Gate City Bank funding will bring essential onsite advocacy and guidance to women as they overcome barriers to employment, health, education, transportation and other situations that might otherwise trigger repeat homelessness.
“Gate City Bank is honored to partner with YWCA on this project. Our gift will provide the resources needed to help women and their children on their journey to a better life,” said Steve Swiontek, Chairman, President, and CEO 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, employees and communities. This initiative will support our mission through a proven program of education and employment coaching, health services and the support of YWCA advocates.”
“This is a very special partnership between a faith organization, a socially-aware business and YWCA. We shape a clear path out of homelessness and into safe, secure homes through this partnership,” said YWCA CEO Erin Prochnow. “YWCA is grateful for this exceptional Gate City Bank gift and a unique collaboration among three entities.”
Each organization contributes essential resources to move the project forward: Lutheran Church of the Cross is providing church-owned land adjacent to the church for lease to YWCA, Gate City Bank will fund supportive services, and YWCA brings 27 years of supportive housing management experience to the project. YWCA is working with the nonprofit Beyond Shelter, an expert in affordable housing projects, to garner grants and financing necessary to construct the building itself. Likelihood of this funding improves greatly, said Prochnow, with clear programming plans by YWCA and financial security for this program in place through Gate City Bank.
While this site will be classified as permanent supportive housing, says Prochnow, 78 percent of women in other YWCA permanent housing move on to other apartments or housing in the community within just two years. Typically, it’s because their income has risen sufficiently to afford other apartments or homes.
Pointing to a dire need for more supportive housing in the community, Prochnow said YWCA was able to accept only 13 percent of applicants for YWCA-operated supportive housing in 2016. There is a 10 percent vacancy rate in the full market and just over 2 percent in the affordable market, according to the City of Fargo.
Prochnow noted that city leaders and police from West Fargo have expressed support for the project.
YWCA is best known for 40 years of providing emergency shelter for women to escape domestic violence and homelessness. The shelter on South University Drive was built in 2004, and has capacity for 67 women and children at any one time. Yet it typically serves up to 80 women and children each night to bring women out of imminent danger.
Overcapacity was addressed in strategic planning by the YWCA board of directors in 2015 with a goal set to expand beyond 19 housing units managed at the time. Among the first in North Dakota to enter supportive housing, YWCA had proven successful in solving homelessness through this housing. YWCA carries forward into this setting valuable knowledge about life skills needed after devastating poverty and domestic violence. There have been 1,978 women and children served through the YWCA supportive housing program over the past 27 years.
Since its board set an ambitious goal in 2015 to double its supportive housing, YWCA has already gone from 19 to 32 homes and will be well past doubling in just four years.
“This will be a home, plus a community,” says Prochnow. “Experience tells us that women are more likely to succeed in changing the course of their lives if they have support and a social network. More than 75 women and children will have the security of homes through this project. They will have vital supportive services thanks to Gate City Bank.”
This project was sparked by Pastor Joel Baranko, Lead Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross, who initiated a conversation with YWCA about how land owned by the church might be used in helping women and children remake their lives.
“We look forward to welcoming our future neighbors and will be honored to offer a loving and supportive community to those on the journey to a life filled with opportunity and hope,” says Baranko.
The site is also ideally situated because of its close proximity to jobs, the new elementary school under construction and public transportation. Groundbreaking is anticipated in 2018, with completion in 2019.
About Gate City Bank
A $1.9 billion mutual community bank, Gate City Bank has been providing banking services to its customers since 1923. Gate City Bank has 36 convenient banking offices across North Dakota and western Minnesota and employs 609 people. In addition to being the number one mortgage lender in North Dakota with locally approved, financed, and serviced home loans, Gate City Bank was named one of the “50 Best Places to Work” in 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Prairie Business.
About YWCA Cass Clay
YWCA operates the largest Emergency Shelter for women and children in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota and provides safe and affordable, short and long term supportive housing options for low-income women. YWCA utilizes a unique empowerment approach and comprehensive programs designed to break the cycles of poverty and violence for women and their families. In addition to safe shelter and supportive housing, programs include: children’s services, education and employment programming, a food pantry, racial justice advocacy, and a nationally accredited public childcare center, A Child’s World. For more information, please visit www.ywcacassclay.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ywcacassclay, or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ywcacassclay.
About Lutheran Church of the Cross
Lutheran Church of the Cross is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) located in West Fargo. Our mission is to live and love like Jesus in every aspect of our lives. We offer a variety of different ministries for all people. At LCC, we are created to worship, called to teach, act with faith, and trust in God. Learn more at www.lcc-wf.com.