Two former motels in Franklinton are being transformed into affordable housing for at-risk youth.
Mike Foley explains.
The $4.5 million project represents a partnership between Finance Fund, Star House, and the City of Columbus. The former Knights Inn and Motel 6 properties in the 1500 block of W. Broad Street will be converted into apartments with a campus-like setting. Star House CEO Ann Bischoff says the complex will primarily support youth ages 18-24 who are homeless or have aged out of the foster care system.
"Over the course of a year, there are thousands of young people who experience homelessness," Bischoff said. "Some youth identify as LGBTQ, and they tell us they have been ostracized from their community with nowhere else to turn. Other youth have run away from abusive situations and have nowhere else to go. They don't have the opportunity to gain a livable wage job. Without that, they can't afford transportation and they certainly can't afford rent. Carol Stewart Village is about turning that situation on its head, connecting youth with efficiency apartments. But we know that housing alone does not solve homelessness. Relationships and resources do."
Bischoff says the development will offer access to jobs, social services, healthcare, transportation, and a social component as residents will have the chance to be connected with 6-8 mentors. Finance Fund, which helps connect underserved communities with public and private dollars, led the acquisition of the 4-acre properties. Finance Fund's Jeff Mohrman describes what the village will look like.
"We anticipate converting these former hotels into 100 efficiency apartments," Mohrman said. "Each unit will have a bathroom, kitchenette, and at least one dedicated parking space. We will add front porches to keep with the design of Franklinton and create a vibrant space to call home. The overall theme of these units is a community within a community. There will be common areas for gathering, and we aim to create a campus feel for the youth residents complete with wrap-around physical and mental health services you'd hope to find at any college campus today."
COSI donated a 14-passenger shuttle to help move residents to jobs, training, and other services. The City of Columbus will contribute $1.6 million to the project through funds allocated to support the work of the Affordable Housing Alliance in 2017. It's also personal for Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther, who shared the story of one of the many children his parents cared for when he was growing up.
"I'll call him Jeff," Ginther said. "He asked me to go with him to visit his father, and I didn't quite understand it. But then I realized he was going to visit his father in prison. Jeff's dad was in prison for killing his mother. It was this experience that had me understand and better appreciate why so many young people struggle to succeed. It really affected me, the way I think about young people in our community and my experiences as a foster brother to all my brothers and sisters. I recognize that not every child gets the same opportunities, but we all have a chance to do something to address that."
The village's name honors the late Carol Stewart, a longtime Franklinton resident and advocate for the area. Partners in the project hope it’s the first of many similar projects. Residents are expected to move in before the end of the year.