As part of Fulton Bank’s community engagement efforts across the American Northeast, its employees worked with West End Neighborhood House and FHLBank Pittsburgh to support the development of housing for homeless and at-risk youth in Wilmington, Delaware.
The housing and supportive services are managed by West End’s Life Lines program, which serves current and former foster care youth, unaccompanied youth and those who identify as LGBTQ. Clients range in age from 16 to 23.
Young adults transitioning out of foster care face many challenges, including finding adequate housing and social services. Often without family support, a credit history, a job or even a secondary education and basic life skills, they are at far greater risk of homelessness than those coming from more stable home environments.
For those identifying as LGBTQ, the challenges are even greater. According to UNICEF’s Voices of Youth reporting, LGBTQ youth have a 120% higher risk of homelessness than their heterosexual peers.
Life Lines Program Director Stacy Shamburger explains. “Many at-risk youth lack the resilience, support, community and safety that most of us are fortunate to have. Our mission is to help them become their best selves, and our job is to provide them with safe, stable housing and the tools they need to feel supported along their journey.”
With the project’s completion in April 2022, West End Neighborhood House and the project’s developer, Cornerstone West Community Development Corporation, increased Life Lines’ housing capacity to accommodate 33 youth. Three of the 10 new beds are prioritized for LGBTQ youth through Life Lines’ Pride Program.
“As a member of FHLBank Pittsburgh, we have ready access to capital and to products that help us better serve our communities,” said Wm. Smokey Glover, Executive Vice President, Director of Fair and Responsible Banking at Fulton Bank. “FHLBank’s Affordable Housing Program enabled us to work with local partners to fund this Life Lines project and help young people in our region who are aging out of foster care. Fulton Bank is proud to work with FHLBank and support projects like this as part of our mission to change lives for the better.”
The housing was made possible through Fulton Bank’s support of a 2019 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) award of $750,000. The sponsorship was part of the Fulton ForwardTM initiative which offers programs, products and services in affordable housing, job training and workforce development, financial education and economic development.
“FHLBank Pittsburgh is one of only a few funders of affordable housing in our area,” according to Sarah Lester, Cornerstone West’s President and CEO. “The AHP grant was the largest single, non-governmental source of funding for our capital campaign, and we couldn’t have created this housing without it.”
The project produced a new three-bedroom home, a one-bedroom ADA-compliant home – Life Lines’ first fully accessible unit – and the rehabilitation of two three-bedroom townhomes. All homes have full kitchens, washers and dryers and are completely furnished. The ADA-compliant house is designed to accommodate a non-ambulatory, sight and/or hearing-impaired individual.
Since its inception in 2001, Life Lines has served more than 1,000 of Delaware’s former foster care and low-income homeless youth.
“Fulton Bank has actively utilized the FHLBank’s credit and community products to enrich the communities they serve,” said Fred Banuelos, FHLBank Pittsburgh Community Investment Business Development Manager. “Their investment in this economically and ethnically diverse region builds upon their dedication to this community and invests in LGBTQ and accessibility resources for youth in Delaware.”
Learn more about this project on the FHLBank Pittsburgh website under “AHP”: Life Lines Provides Housing for Homeless Youth in Delaware.
The Affordable Housing Program (AHP) helps FHLBank members participate in the development of affordable housing in the communities they serve. Learn more by visiting https://www.fhlb-pgh.com/AHP.
FHLBank Pittsburgh provides reliable funding and liquidity to its member financial institutions, which include commercial and savings banks, community development financial institutions, credit unions and insurance companies in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. FHLBank products and resources help support community lending, housing and economic development. As one of 11 Federal Home Loan Banks established by Congress, FHLBank has been an integral and reliable part of the financial system since 1932. Learn more by visiting www.fhlb-pgh.com.
Many of us take great pride in our hometowns – even if the places where we grew up have lost some of their luster over time. Have you wondered what it would take to recapture the sense of place and vitality your community once had, to attract new families and to grow new businesses? Would it involve revitalization of the town center, or event sponsorships that bring people together, or something else altogether?
How would you create a new vision and plan, and how would you fund it? Where would you begin?
Six West Virginia communities – each sponsored by one or more FHLBank Pittsburgh member financial institutions – have spent the past two years answering those questions, while working to create and implement plans to revitalize their communities.
They have done this work with the support of FHLBank Pittsburgh’s Blueprint Communities® – an initiative designed to revitalize older communities and neighborhoods by developing local leadership and growing their capacity to accomplish their own goals.
“Blueprint Communities was developed in response to our members’ concerns for under-invested communities in the areas they serve,” explains John Bendel, FHLBank Pittsburgh’s Senior Director of Community Investment. “Our members are looking for ways to help their communities find opportunities for growth.” Established in 2005, Blueprint Communities has since supported 64 communities across Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in their revitalization efforts. This program focuses on creating and building momentum, often working in concert with prior and ongoing initiatives and investments made by public and private entities. The six communities in West Virginia comprise the latest Blueprint Communities cohort.
According to Laura Rye, MVB Bank Community Reinvestment Act Officer and MVB Community Development Corporation COO, “Blueprint Communities is pivotal and sustaining for participating communities – providing the resources they need to stay on track and achieve long-term success.”
For this 2019 cohort, FHLBank Pittsburgh engaged the West Virginia Community Development Hub (The Hub) to help provide training and coaching to the six communities’ multidisciplinary teams, each of whom includes a local government official, a real estate development professional and a representative from a community organization. FHLBank Pittsburgh members also participate on the teams, contributing their financial expertise, strong community relationships and access to capital.
Additionally, FHLBank Pittsburgh provides each participating community with funding, including ‘anchor’ or ‘capacity-building’ grants for administration and training, and mini-grants awarded over a two-year period to kickstart priority projects.
“Small, rural communities often struggle to fund and execute large complex projects solely through volunteer support,” says The Hub Community Development Programs Specialist Kaycie Stushek. “Blueprint Communities’ anchor grants allow them to pay for staff and other administrative expenses that are needed to sustain their efforts. They are a critical component of the program’s success and part of what distinguishes Blueprint Communities from other community development programs.”
The program also encourages investments by public and private funders, and partners with organizations that can lend vital expertise. This enables the Blueprint Communities initiative to work alongside federal and state resources that help bring community plans to life. Blueprint Communities is just one of several community investment products offered by FHLBank Pittsburgh.
West Virginia’s Blueprint Communities teams began their work in 2019 and received their official Blueprint Communities designations in August 2020. During that time, the teams worked with their communities to better understand local needs and priorities – and worked with each community in the cohort, sharing ideas and resources that helped them build and implement their five-year strategic plans. According to Janet Preston with the Parsons team, “Working with the other teams has been energizing and inspiring because we can see possibilities for our own communities in each other’s work.”
In addition, the teams have partnered with a multitude of organizations – colleges and universities, economic development agencies, foundations, local lenders and volunteer groups – that have donated time, expertise and funding to further the revitalization efforts. According to Stushek, “Collectively, the teams have leveraged their individual $37,250 in anchor grants and approximately $15,000 of mini-grants to generate more than $2.83 million in funding, including a $750,000 Affordable Housing Program grant from FHLBank Pittsburgh and a $1.8 million Abandoned Mine Lands Program grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior.” With the additional $15,000 mini-grants in 2022, the communities can expect that leverage will grow.
Their plans and projects, while unique to their locales, address common priorities in older rural communities. Several teams have focused on revitalizing their downtowns – demolishing or repurposing older commercial buildings and creating urban parks with landscaping, seating and artwork by local artists. With West Virginia’s growing reputation as a destination for outdoor recreation, others have been working to improve regional parks and trails. Two of the communities are working to renovate former school buildings for use as community centers and affordable housing.
Marketing and advertising campaigns promoting local businesses, new business opportunities and recreational tourism complement these revitalization efforts. Events – organized hikes and 5K runs, outdoor movie nights, concerts and Second Saturday celebrations – encourage community partnerships and participation.
There have been challenges along the way – the pandemic among them. But since achieving their Blueprint Communities status, the teams have made important strides in their initial goals and built on their plans to grow their communities in ways they could not have envisioned when they began their Blueprint Communities journey.
Partnerships have been fundamental to their success – and to the overall success of the Blueprint Communities initiative. According to Stushek, “The Hub's close working relationship with FHLBank Pittsburgh has been essential to the communities’ ability to achieve their goals. Even during the height of the pandemic, the strength of that partnership gave us the flexibility we needed to respond to the communities’ changing needs – while producing program deliverables and supporting communities to achieve remarkable results."
FHLBank Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing and Community Development Manager Rhiannon Haller concurs. “FHLBank members’ investments and partnership with The Hub, and the foundation laid by the Blueprint Communities initiative will hopefully sustain the success of these six communities for generations to come.”
"Blueprint Communities" is a registered service mark of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh.
Monroe County lies in the heart of the picturesque Allegheny Mountains. It is rural – there are no stoplights or fast-food restaurants in the entire county – and it is economically disadvantaged. With few employers and limited access to broadband Internet, younger residents seek opportunity elsewhere, leaving behind a growing senior population.
In 2014, seniors represented approximately 16% of the county’s residents, its second largest age demographic, and most could not afford market-rate rents.
With the school district’s donation of the old Greenville School property in 2014, Monroe County Council on Aging (MCCOA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation providing meals, in-home services and transportation for seniors, had an opportunity to expand its services and create additional housing for the county’s senior citizens.
MCCOA embarked on a five-year project to develop the 11-acre property. The plan for the new Greenville Senior Living and Community Center included a senior center, a community and economic center and 16 units of affordable housing. Roughly estimated to cost $3.2 million, the project represented “a huge investment in this very rural, underserved area of West Virginia,” according to Bank of Monroe President and CEO Jim King, who would play an instrumental role in the project’s success.
MCCOA provided $100,000 in seed money and began by converting the old kindergarten annex into a senior center, while its all-volunteer project team began looking for funding to complete the full scope of the five-year project. As team member Skip Heath recalls, “We had a good mix of talent in construction, finance, cost analysis and project management, but little experience with a project of this scale.”
Undaunted, and after a few false starts, the team found the resources it needed to develop the senior housing. West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund provided an initial $20,000 loan for predevelopment, and after discussion with FHLBank Pittsburgh staff, the team approached Bank of Monroe to request its sponsorship of an AHP grant for housing construction.
Established by Congress, AHP provides grants and subsidized loans for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing for households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income. Housing developers partner with FHLBank members to apply for AHP funding, which is offered through an annual competitive funding round.
King explained, “Although we were not familiar with the AHP at the time, we met with the individuals involved and got comfortable with their plan and the program. Ultimately, we are here to support the communities we serve, and the AHP offered a great opportunity to help fund and collaborate on this important project for the Greenville community.”
In 2016, MCCOA received a $650,000 AHP grant from FHLBank and, in 2017, a $700,000 HOME Program loan from West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) to construct two apartment buildings, each with four units of affordable housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities. Construction began in August 2017, and with the successful completion of the first eight units, MCCOA received a second AHP grant of $650,000 in 2018 and a third grant of $730,000 in 2019, enabling the construction of eight more units of housing. Each of the AHP grants supported a separate phase of the project.
In addition to sponsoring the AHP applications, Bank of Monroe provided lines of credit to facilitate the construction.
Completed in 2019, Greenville Senior Living consists of four one-story buildings with four apartments each: one two-bedroom and three one-bedrooms. In addition to wheelchair access, the new homes feature private front and rear porches, energy-efficient appliances and central heating and air conditioning. Residents have easy access to meals, transportation, educational and recreational opportunities, fitness classes and counseling at the nearby senior center.
The campus is also home to Greenville Farm Kitchen, a non-profit organization that processes and distributes hand-crafted foods throughout West Virginia. MCCOA’s original plan for the site will be complete with its conversion of the old school building into a community center, replete with office space and a gym for community and school use.
Heath credits FHLBank and the WVHDF for their critical support in developing the project. “Bottom line, we could not have done this project without WVHDF and FHLBank Pittsburgh. I cannot say enough about both organizations and their staffs.”
While Greenville Senior Housing represents Bank of Monroe’s first experience with AHP, it was not its last. When FHLBank provided down payment assistance to West Virginia homeowners impacted by flooding that ravaged the area in 2016, Bank of Monroe gave loans on the properties. In 2017, King received the Council’s Award from FHLBank for his outstanding work in promoting stability and revitalization.Reflecting on his experience working with FHLBank, King said, “FHLBanks play a huge role across the country. There are so many places in our area that can benefit from their funding and support, and we are fortunate that FHLBank Pittsburgh has always responded."
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