The sun shone bright on a parking lot in North Philadelphia Oct. 21 as Gov. Tom Wolf announced a $3-million investment from the state for a 30-unit affordable-housing complex that will offer LGBT-friendly residency for young adults.
The money came through the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
“The reason RCAPs exist is to make Pennsylvania better,” Wolf said. “This is an investment. This is not a gift. It’s not a contribution. It’s an investment. This investment is going to make Philadelphia better, which I remind you is the biggest city in Pennsylvania.”
Project HOME and the Middleton Partnership will develop the lot at 1315 N. Eighth St. Groundbreaking will take place in April 2017 with construction expected to conclude 17 months later. The four-story building will have more than 36,500 square feet. Each unit will have one bedroom. There will also be laundry and exercise rooms in addition to a community space that will open to an outdoor courtyard for art events and other public programs.
Mel Heifetz, an LGBT philanthropist and real estate mogul, was credited for his advice as the project developed.
In May, Project HOME and the Middleton Partnership opened another affordable housing complex in Chinatown that included six units specifically for LGBT people. The building on North Eighth Street represents the first time LGBT-friendliness will be at the heart of such a building. Project HOME partnered with The Attic Youth Center and the Mazzoni Center to link youth aged 18-24 with services. Other in-house programs will support LGBT youth, which Project HOME staff noted is the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, thanked the local, state and federal officials who supported the project. State Rep. Dwight Evans and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey also attended the ceremony announcing the state’s investment.
“We’re so grateful to the commonwealth to make projects like this possible, to provide young people with the foundation that they can engage in health care, education and employment and move to become future leaders of our community,” Scullion said. “We fully expect that all the young people who will live in this project and all the projects of Project HOME will be the future leaders of our community. They will be our next elected officials, our next nonprofit leaders and our next corporate philanthropists.”
Scullion introduced one young person from Project HOME to share his story: Joseph Tindell English.
Dressed in a sharp vest and navy bowtie, the 22-year-old talked about the importance to him of The Attic, the Washington West Project at Mazzoni and The COLOURS Organization.
“I was blessed to have them inside my life, to guide me, to put knowledge inside of me, to let me know that I am more than what people think I am,” English said.
Joseph Tindell English speaks at a ceremony to announce a $3-million state investment in an LGBT-inclusive affordable-housing complex to be built at 1315 N. Eighth St.
He talked about seeing some of his peers struggle with homelessness in the Gayborhood.
“We’re trying to make it,” English said. “We’re trying to become something.”
He added it’s tough to sustain a living on the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. It necessitates young people to have several jobs while trying to go to school and lead happy lives.
English called the project on North Eighth Street “truly a blessing.”
“To have this opportunity for new housing [for] the LGB community, for the trans community, this is amazing for someone to actually believe in us,” he said.
The total project cost for the building will be just over $13 million. In addition to the state funding, $4.7 million comes from low-income housing tax credits, $3.5 million from the Philadelphia Department of Housing and Community Development and $1.8 million from Project HOME.
“This is the ultimate public-private partnership,” Sen. Casey said. He thanked those involved for “bringing a lot of light to the darkness of homelessness.”
A second phase will add a second building to the complex, with 40 units for young adults and adults, not necessarily who identify as LGBT. That building has an estimated $14-million price tag.