Commons at Garden Lake has taken veterans off the streets and given them a stable home.

A permanent supportive housing development, the new community combines 75 affordable housing units with critical on-site services in Toledo, Ohio. It’s a central piece in the effort to end veteran homelessness in the city.

Built exclusively for homeless and disabled veterans, many of the residents have come from the streets and shelters. Sixteen of the units serve chronically homeless individuals. Commons at Garden Lake follows the Housing First model, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. The housing then serves as a foundation to receive services and improve their lives.

“There’s an incredible number of heroes living in the building, but there was also an incredible number of heroes that helped us get this building done,” says Michelle Norris, executive vice president of external affairs and strategic initiatives at National Church Residences, the nonprofit developer.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur was a major driver in the project. She heard about National Church Residences’ veterans project in Columbus, Ohio, and asked how a similar development could be built in her district in Toledo and then helped convene the key parties, including city, housing, and veteran organizations.

“From the beginning, there was a sense that we were all in this together,” Norris says.

Completed in 2015, Commons at Garden Lake is the first community in Ohio to use project-based VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers, which combine rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Thirty-five units have project-based VASH vouchers, and the other units have project-based vouchers from the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority.

The average age of residents at Commons at Garden Lake is 56. At many of National Church Residences’ supportive housing developments, the average age is hitting 50 or older, which means there is an ever growing need to address many long-term chronic conditions of the residents.

Recognizing that many residents will likely have medical needs, National Church Residences has now added access to primary care on site in addition to the case management services that have historically been provided. It has partnered with the VA to provide offices for various services at the new building, which recently received the LEED for Homes GOLD status. The development is also a short walk from a new $48 million Veterans Affairs Toledo Community-Based Outpatient Clinic which allows additional access to medical services beyond primary care.

Recognizing that many will likely have medical needs, National Church Residences provides robust health and other services. It has partnered with the VA to provide offices for case managers at the new building, which is seeking LEED Gold status. The development is also a short walk from a new $48 million Veterans Affairs Toledo Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.

Multiple sources of funding were assembled to finance the $12.7 million housing development, including $9.1 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from National Affordable Housing Trust.

Project Details

Developer: National Church Residences
Architect: Berardi + Partners
Major Funders: National Affordable Housing Trust; Huntington Bank; Ohio Housing Finance Agency; city of Toledo; Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board; Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati; Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County; Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority; Veterans Affairs; Department of Housing and Urban Development; The Home Depot Foundation