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Fargo YWCA's Lantern Light housing facility gets key green lights on funding

Renovation of the former Sacred Heart Convent into 23 safe and low-cost apartments is expected to get underway soon and residents could be moved in by late 2023.

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Sacred Heart Convent, 1101 32nd Ave. S., Fargo, is seen Monday, June 27, 2022. The sale of the facility to the YWCA Cass Clay is expected to be completed Thursday, June 30. The convent will be turned into 23 safe and affordable apartments for people dealing with domestic violence, homelessness, or other housing instability issues.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum
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FARGO — The YWCA Cass Clay is ready to create a new safe and affordable housing facility for people dealing with domestic violence, homelessness, or other housing instability issues.

YWCA Lantern Light Apartments could be operating by late 2023 in the former Sacred Heart Convent at 1101 32nd Ave. S., YWCA's COO Julie Haugen said.

The timing of the opening will depend on how quickly the facility can be rehabilitated to create the 23 one- to four-bedroom apartments planned, Beyond Shelter CEO Dan Madler said Tuesday, June 28.

Erin Prochnow, the YWCA’s executive director, said closing on the purchase of the former convent from the Presentation Sisters should be complete Thursday, June 30.

Bid opening for the renovation, which includes upgrading the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, was also to take place Thursday, Madler said.

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Prochnow received notice Tuesday that the property passed an environmental review by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That certification was vital for the project and means federal funds set aside for Lantern Light can be disbursed.

Housing stories
Beyond Shelter is putting together a "Plan B" to build about half of its originally planned apartments on the former South University Kmart site; Milton Earl Apartments would get $300,000 to bridge funding gap so construction can begin.

To date, $6.5 million has been obtained to buy and renovate the property, Prochnow said.

The YWCA set “a bold goal” in 2015 to double the size of its housing programs, Prochnow said.

“We were far too often seeing victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault return to their abusive partners because they felt there wasn’t another alternative,” Prochnow said. “We know that supportive housing is a difference maker for people being able to live a life free of violence.”

The convent is adjacent to the YWCA’s emergency shelter in south Fargo and will create a campus, which will give Lantern Light residents access to child care, educational opportunities, a nurse and other services. In fact, the Y had for seven years maintained four apartments in the convent, before the purchase was proposed, Prochnow said.

Along with the Presentation Sisters and Beyond Shelter, the city of Fargo is another of several partners in the project.

Tia Braseth, the city’s community development planning coordinator, told the City Commission during a public hearing Monday, June 27, that the city will be able to allocate $550,000 in federal funding to the project. That action, along with other allocations of federal funds for homeless prevention and housing initiatives, will go to the commission for a final vote July 11.

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Other Lantern Light funding partners include the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency through the Housing Trust Fund, the Housing Incentive Fund and with federal HOME funds. The Federal Home Loan Bank in Des Moines, Iowa, also provided an affordable housing grant.

The Fargo Housing Authority has committed to providing housing vouchers for Lantern Light residents. And the YWCA is raising private dollars to support the shelter in perpetuity.

The results of the bid opening will reveal how much current costs have varied from earlier estimates and could further affect the timeline for opening.

“We’re not all the way there, yet,” Prochnow said.

The YWCA provides the largest emergency shelter for women and children in North Dakota. It has also provided supportive housing in the community since 1989, Prochnow said.

The YWCA now has 80 units of supportive housing across the community that are owned or leased.

Prochnow estimates that about 60 people will be housed in the Lantern Light apartments, most of them children.

“The reality is that financial abuse impacts about 99% of domestic violence survivors. As a result, women often see no way out of unsafe situations and feel financially trapped,” she said.

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Lantern Light can provide an opportunity “for survivors to feel safe, secure and valued and they can move on with their lives and live independently and seek out education and health care opportunities,” Prochnow said.

The convent building was built in 1984 to be home and worship quarters for the Presentation Sisters after downsizing took place at their former home in Riverview Place in south Fargo, which is now an independent living center.

When it recently became clear Sacred Heart Convent was too large for the number of sisters still residing there, many of the sisters relocated to apartments and independent living centers in fall of 2020. Others live in assisted and skilled care facilities.

Related Topics: FARGO
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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