St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc. (SVdP) broke ground July 12 on Ascend Home, a new eight-unit transitional housing apartment complex adjacent to SVdP’s First Place Family Center at The Annex, 4060 W. Amazon Drive.

These units will provide supportive housing for local families who are transitioning out of homelessness — and will serve as a resource designed to bridge the daunting gap they face between emergency shelter and long-term housing. The project is made possible by a $2 million donation from CBT Nuggets, a Eugene-based online IT training company.

This long-anticipated development is the result of nearly five years of collaboration between SVdP and CBT Nuggets. Since 2017, the groups have worked together to create positive change for families in crisis. These apartments will help address the current lack of case-managed transitional housing in the area, which often creates additional barriers for families who wish to move from temporary housing into more permanent homes.

“There’s currently a critical gap between emergency housing and sustainable, affordable housing solutions for families in Lane County,” reads a statement from CBT Nuggets’ philanthropy and social-responsibility arm, NuggetLove. “This gap can cause generations of families to end up trapped in a continual struggle to find stable housing and financial security — resulting in further reliance on social systems that are already at their breaking point. We believe there’s a better chance for these families to achieve long-term stability if they’re able to transition out of emergency shelter and into supportive housing alongside the case workers they’ve built relationships with.”

Ascend Home will include eight two-bedroom, one-bath apartments of about 800 square feet each; a common laundry area for residents; and an office/meeting space enabling families to meet as needed with their case managers, service providers and others. It will provide a safe harbor where families can anchor long enough, out of crisis and with a roof reliably overhead, to focus on the work necessary to secure lasting stability in housing, employment and more.

“This new source of transitional housing for families could truly have a generational impact on poverty and homelessness,” says SVdP Executive Director Terry McDonald. “We applaud CBT Nuggets for this generous donation, which will leave a lasting brick-and-mortar reminder of the company’s caring investment in our shared community. Most importantly, the gift will allow some of our most vulnerable neighbors to change the course of their families’ futures.”

SVdP’s emergency services staff are working internally and with community partners to establish resident qualifications, maximum length of stay, rental subsidy sources, and other operational details ahead of a planned spring 2023 opening of Ascend Home. While rigid guidelines dictate the operation of publicly funded housing projects, CBT Nuggets’ private donation will afford SVdP maximum flexibility to design a program that will best serve clients and the community.

What’s currently clear is that existing emergency shelters often can’t accommodate the length of stay required for families experiencing homelessness to create lasting change. SVdP’s Night Shelter Annex, for example, provides emergency shelter for as many as 22 families at a time but necessarily limits each to a 90-day stay so it can serve additional families.

And the need in the community is great, as demonstrated by recent statistics from SVdP’s emergency services and affordable-housing programs. In 2021 alone, SVdP provided shelter for 119 families and 1,290 individual adults; served 718 families experiencing homelessness through the First Place Family Center; and provided 303,302 meals. Also in 2021, more than 1,500 units of quality low-income housing developed and managed by SVdP provided safe, affordable homes for 3,867 residents.

SVdP worked with longtime partner BDA Architecture and Planning, P.C. for the design of the Ascend Home complex. An eight-month construction timeline is projected, with another longstanding partner, Meili Construction, serving as SVdP’s general contractor.

As the 8-plex takes shape, an outsized measure of optimism per square foot will begin to materialize within the four walls of each apartment. Hopeful families will soon come home here, one step higher in their ascent to happier, healthier, more securely housed futures.

Existing SVdP services consolidate at Annex site

The start of construction on eight new units of transitional housing roughly coincided with SVdP’s consolidation of services for unhoused families at the existing Night Shelter Annex site. On Aug. 1, SVdP improved access to all of its emergency services for unhoused families by moving day-shelter and childcare services, formerly offered at First Place Family Center (FPFC) and First Place Kids, to The Annex — which previously provided only nighttime shelter for enrolled families. The newly consolidated First Place Family Center at The Annex, 4060 W. Amazon Drive, is just 2 miles south of the former FPFC day-services site at 1995 Amazon Pkwy., with ample parking and greater accessibility.

As SVdP strives to provide ever-more compassionate and trauma-informed care, staff believe that providing wraparound emergency family services and transitional housing at one central site will enable the organization to better serve families experiencing homelessness.