Amidst a growing need to provide for affordable, permanent housing needs for survivors of domestic violence, last week Dwelling Place announced the completion of the transformation and renovation of a transitional housing community, My Sisters’ House, into a beautiful and sustainable permanent housing called Bridge Street Place. Dwelling Place initiated a partnership with the YWCA West Central Michigan, who will refer applicants for the housing, and chose to work with architects John LaPorte & Associates and Rockford Construction. Bridge Street Place has been impressively remodeled to attain LEED® certification at the Platinum level, which is the highest possible level.
Director of Housing Development, Jarrett DeWyse, OP, explains: Dwelling Place is committed to be as energy efficient as possible “so that there’s no question that we’re responsibly using the resources that we’ve been given.”
Some of the contributing aspects of the remodeling to contribute to this certification include:
- Rainwater collection from the roof for irrigation
- Low flow water fixtures (which will save more than 20 gallons a day)
- High efficiency lighting and Energy Star rated kitchen appliances
- paints, adhesives, caulks specially formulated to give off very little odor, contaminants, and chemicals
- close proximity to a library, market, and a bus line
“How long have we dreamed of and discussed such a place?” Carlene Grassmid, Dwelling Place Resident Services Coordinator, asked rhetorically at the Open House. “This was one of the needs in our community.”
Though survivors of domestic violence do not have many options in the first place, finding assistance and housing for those who do not have children and therefore cannot apply for cash assistance have even fewer than those who do.
“Having this project specifically devoted to single domestic violence survivors is a tremendous asset to us and to the community. Victims, fleeing violent relationships, come to the YWCA Domestic Crisis Center knowing they can only stay temporarily. Having permanent housing options provides a very real sense of hope to victims who may, otherwise, have access to very few resources,” Tom Cottrell, Vice President of Counseling Services of the YWCA.
The building was originally built as a convent to house a School of the Sisters of Notre Dame. In 1989, it became transitional housing for single women, called My Sisters’ House, continuing its legacy in service to the community. By offering women who were homeless and/or survivors of domestic violence a temporary place to stay, My Sisters House provided a respite for healing and recovery, a chance to achieve self sufficiency and secure permanent housing. Dwelling Place assumed operational responsibility for this program in 1992. At that time, there were 21 rooms and a community kitchen.
In 2008, working in line with the Vision to End Homelessness and the commitment to provide affordable permanent housing, plans began to transform the facility. Now, Bridge Street Place boasts sixteen apartments – each with their own kitchen and bathroom – with on-site laundry facilities and a security monitor in each apartment of the front door. Two of the apartments are barrier free for wheel chair access. Also, a former garage for My Sisters’ House is now a three season community porch with patio furniture from Israels Interior Designs for Living. Bed Bath and Beyond donated bedding for each partially furnished apartment.
Each apartment has a federal housing subsidy attached to it, so that the individual only has to pay 30% of their income to live there, so long as they are in compliance with the lease. Already to qualify, the individual has to make less than 60% of the area median income. Bridge Street Place is the first project in Michigan funded with low-income tax credits that has committed 100% of the apartments to survivors of domestic violence. Financial partners in funding the $3.7 million development cost include: United Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, the Frey Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, HOME funds from the City of Grand Rapids, with a tax credit equity of $2.7 million provided by Huntington National Bank through Great Lakes Capital Fund for Housing. Huntington National Bank also provided a construction loan to complete the project, and underwrote a portion of the Dedication Ceremony costs.
An Open House and Dedication Ceremony last week not only allowed visitors to see this stunning remodeling, but also offered an opportunity to share some of the issues that survivors of domestic violence have faced and continue to face. “Domestic Violence affects all of us. My guess is that you know someone whose life has been affected in some way by domestic violence,” says Eileen McKeever, Director of Residential Services at the YWCA West Central Michigan.
“Not too long ago, the domestic violence victims advocacy movement, and specifically the YWCA as a domestic violence provider agency, really tried to keep victims safely sheltered by keeping their location and presence in the community a secret. ” said Cottrell of the YWCA, “Unfortunately in that same process, we probably kept the issues that survivors of domestic violence face also secret from the community. So this very public collaborative is really, I think, reflective of our community recognizing and embracing those issues that survivors of domestic violence face…”
This year, Dwelling Place is celebrating its 30th anniversary. “We remain staunchly committed to our mission of creating affordable housing, providing critical support services and participating in neighborhood revitalization efforts,”says Chief Executive Officer, Denny Sturtevant. “Bridge Street Place is a wonderful example of our mission at work. We are grateful to all of our collaborating partners on the project and are honored to continue our work in this community.”
If you or someone you know is facing any of the issues of domestic violence, please contact the YWCA West Central Michigan. Visit them on the web at:
YWCA 24-Hour Confidential Crisis Line: 616-451-2744
For all other YWCA Domestic Violence Services call: 616-459-4652
(business hours only.)
If you or someone you know is in need of affordable housing, please contact Dwelling Place.
Visit us on the web at:
Or call: 616-855-0928
Article by Teresa Zbiciak, Americorps Member of Dwelling Place