Every year in Georgia, 600 to 700 youths age out of the foster care system. In the two counties that encompass the Atlanta metropolitan area, DeKalb and Fulton, 145 youths aged out of foster care last year, with 39 percent having a mental health diagnosis.
And for 23 years, Kathy Colbenson, CEO of nonprofit CHRIS Kids, has had a dream to create permanent supportive housing to serve the needs of youths 17 to 24 who have aged out of the foster care system or are homeless.
That dream finally came alive in February when the leasing process started at the 46-unit Summit Trail.
“These are kids who haven't even finished high school. And we're helping them at one of the most critical transitions of a child's life—the transition to adulthood, where they're either going to do well or not,” says Colbenson. “We're doing this project so they do have the opportunity to do well.”
The 29-year-old nonprofit has been serving this population with scatteredsite rental apartments in area complexes, but Colbenson says that doesn't work as well because the youths are vulnerable and can be victimized.
“This project combines affordable housing and project-based rental assistance vouchers with mental health services, life skills, and support for completing an education because we all know that even with a diploma, it's hard to get a job,” Colbenson says.
Because of its inexperience in real estate development, CHRIS Kids brought in Georgia nonprofit affordable housing developer and owner Progressive Redevelopment, Inc. (PRI), as development consultant to help bring Summit Trail to fruition.
PRI worked with CHRIS Kids on the project, which included a rehab of existing apartment buildings and new construction, by closing on the state and local financing, getting project-based Sec. 8 rental assistance vouchers from the Atlanta Housing Authority, and working to incorporate green components.
“It's a win-win situation,” says Richelle “Shelly” Patton, president of PRI Development Services, LLC. “It serves our mission and their mission.”
The development includes 22 onebedroom, eight two-bedroom, and 14 single-room occupancy units, plus two additional employee units.
The development is EarthCraft certified. It features water conservation measures, such as rainwater harvesting through cisterns, drought-tolerant and native plants, tankless water heaters, and low-fl ow toilets and fixtures. It also includes high-efficiency HVAC units, energy-efficient windows, and Energy Star-rated appliances.
Financing for the $7.6 million development included a $3.8 million Georgia Department of Community Affairs Permanent Supportive Housing loan, a $1.4 million Atlanta Development Authority Homeless Opportunity Funds grant, a $315,000 Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta Affordable Housing Program grant, and $2.1 million in CHRIS Kids equity from fundraising and grants.