Written by Emily Osweiler, Executive Director of YMCA Supportive Housing Campus
Lack of affordable housing is an enormous problem in Central Iowa. According to experts, the region needs an additional 12,000 units to serve the needs of low-income individuals. On any given night, 800 people in Central Iowa are living on the streets or seeking refuge in shelters. Hundreds more are making do with temporary living arrangements that put their health and safety at risk.
The YMCA Supportive Housing Campus addresses the affordable housing crisis on a daily basis. Our campus community provides permanent housing and wraparound services for 140 people who were formerly homeless or at risk of homelessness. Our efficiency units are always filled and our waitlist grows longer each year.
At Y-SHC, people who have been struggling with homelessness and other issues find security, stability and a sense of belonging to a community. They start to feel hopeful about a future and the possibility of achieving life goals. The reality, though, is that there are some high hurdles to clear for residents who feel ready to move out of Y-SHC: rent will increase 2-3 times, they will lose all of the on-site supports such as case management and the pantry, and they will lose the community (their “framily”). Sometimes, that makes the reward of the next success on their journey almost too risky to attempt.
Enter the Supportive Housing Graduate Program. This pilot program enables residents to transition to their own off-campus apartments without losing the safety net that Y-SHC provides. They will continue to have access to all supportive services and the ability to come back anytime to be with their “family.” Rental assistance will continue for the first two years; in the third and final year, they will pay their full rent on their own, but still participate in case management and other supportive services. We will stay connected with them in many ways!
We are so excited to help our first five graduates take this leap and it is humbling to see such inspiration! We are so grateful to our partners for making this possible: Polk County Housing Trust Fund, Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, American Dreams Foundation, United Way of Central Iowa, Sam Fathallah Creative, Polk County Supervisor Robert Brownell, Knapp Properties, Hubbell Realty, Wells Fargo, Nationwide Foundation and Principal Foundation. They are not only impacting lives… they are saving lives! Everyone has a story and everyone deserves a place to call home.