FARGO — Alvira Walker is a "country girl" who was alone about three years ago when she decided to move to Fargo.
On a fixed income, she was looking for something affordable along with feeling like a "duck out of water" in the big city.
After seeing an advertisement in The Forum, she found just what she needed in the Homefield apartment complex for low-income senior citizens at 4225 28th Ave. S. just off of 42nd Street and near Interstate 94 in southwest Fargo.
She said it has "everything I need close by" with medical services, groceries and hospitals.
Walker was among the speakers on Monday, Aug. 30, who addressed a group of city and state leaders, Wells Fargo officials and nonprofits working to improve housing for those in need at an event marking the opening of the last of the three buildings in the Homefield complex.
Homefield has 117 units for people over age 62.
The affordable housing facility is clean, comfortable and convenient, Walker said, noting she also has nice neighbors and enjoys activities at the complex.
"I've made a lot of friends there," she told the group that included Gov. Doug Burgum. The governor said affordable housing was one of the top issues that arose across more than 50 listening sessions around the state.
Burgum was joined by Wells Fargo Regional President Laurie Nordquist, Beyond Shelter CEO Dan Madler and Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jim Nelson in addressing the crowd who packed the community room at the newest Homefield building that opens this week. The new building offers 44 units to go along with 73 other apartments in the complex.
Nordquist, who surprised Madler and Nelson by giving them each $100,000 checks from the Wells Fargo Foundation, said it takes public and private partnerships to make more affordable housing available.
She said housing is the "foundation" for any person or family that can lead to improvements in education, health and wealth.
Burgum said housing was "essential for humans to flourish."
Nick Hamilton said he couldn't agree more. He told the crowd he was without hope in 2010. He had no savings and could only afford a rental unit for his wife and two children.
"I guess we were in the cycle of poverty," he said. "It seemed like there was no way out even though I was working multiple jobs."
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, though, he was able to move into a home with a payment that was about half of what they were paying in rent. That allowed the Hamiltons to work their way up the ladder, so in five years they were able to purchase another home on their own.
Nelson said what it boils down to is abundance and scarcity.
Those who have abundance often can't understand what it likes to struggle with scarcity and the insecurity and powerlessness that goes with it, he said.
Habitat for Humanity gives a "hand up, not a hand out," Nelson said. In their 30 years, they have helped 65 families who have gained the "mindset of abundance" that comes with a home as they break that cycle of poverty, he added.
Habitat for Humanity is building four homes this year and four next year, but would like to be able to do eight a year, he said.
Madler, whose nonprofit is marking its 22nd year, said that to show the need for even more housing, the vacancy rates at senior housing units in Fargo are at 1.75%, which basically means none are available.
Starting in the spring, they are breaking ground on another senior housing structure in downtown Fargo called the Milton Earle, he said.
What it takes, though, are these long-term partnerships such as the one they have with Wells Fargo, whom they have worked with since their beginning.
He said they have worked on 12 projects with Wells Fargo involving about $35 million in financing and grants. With the new Milton Earle, it'll be closer to $45 million.
Madler said they have many other funding partners, including cities, counties and the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, another major partner needed to receive federal tax credits as well as state assistance that Burgum said he strongly supports.
With the $100,000 grants from Wells Fargo, Beyond Shelter is planning to hire a supportive services person for the Homefield buildings, while Habitat for Humanity is planning to use it for a new storage facility for all of its tools and supplies.