Wellroot receives $1.2 million in federal funding for apartment renovation, programming(left to right) Tucker Mayor Frank Auman, Wellroot CEO Allison Ashe, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett and Wellroot board chair Dan Beale met with Rep. Hank Johnson (center) on Feb. 16 to discuss federal funding Wellroot is set to receive. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — Wellroot Family Services is set to receive $1.2 million in funding that Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4) secured as part of the 2023 community project funding appropriations.
One grant award is $914,000 for renovating a newly purchased facility to house youth ages 18-21 on East Lake Drive in Decatur. The funding will go toward phase two of the renovations.
“Phase one was the infrastructure things like the roof and staircases. Everything else is making it a beautiful trauma-informed, updated [facility]. It’ll include maintaining greenspace, creating some greenspace, creating outdoor gathering space. We are adding one add-on building on the house that will be a community room and a laundry facility,” Wellroot Chief Executive Officer Allison Ashe told Decaturish.
The second grant is $286,500 which will be used to support over 30 at-risk youth through the Safe and Stable Housing for Youth Aging Out of Care program.
The Safe and Stable Housing for Youth Aging Out of Care program serves young adults ages 18-21 who are transitioning out of foster care or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. The program provides 24-hour support through community-based housing and ongoing life skills development, including financial literacy, tutoring, and career development. Residents are guided through the process of earning their high school diploma or GED and support youth as they enter college or trade school, according to a press release.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, Wellroot hosted Johnson at its Tucker office to discuss the project and the funding.
“…it is hard to make that transition from being a young person to being a young adult and move into adulthood. It is even more difficult for a young person who is aging out of foster care,” Ashe said during the event at Wellroot’s office.
She added that the project is helping change young people’s lives and keep them off the trajectory of potentially becoming homeless or not attending college.
“Rep. Johnson has helped us to secure and advocated for us to secure the money to renovate these apartments and make them into a beautiful trauma-informed home,” Ashe said. “There are already 14 young people currently living on the property. Once we renovate, we will be able to house up to 30 young people and young families in a beautiful community where they’ll have walkable space, where they can walk to jobs and really grow, thrive and heal, and build the long term connections that we want them to build.”
Some members of Congress may dedicate community project funding to a road or bridge project, some kind of “hard spending,” Johnson said.
“Or you can do more soft, programmatic spending that actually touches people in a way that you can’t really see, but the ramifications of that touch are great. It can be even generational,” Johnson said. “There is some hard money going into structures and that kind of thing, but the purpose of this is to be able to help these young kids, many of whom have been in foster care throughout their entire lives, from one home to another.”
He added that the funding will help the youth living at the property as they have aged out of foster care and “are now transitioning into full self-sufficiency.”
Wellroot is a faith-centered family services organization that offers programs related to foster care, transitional and independent living, and family housing. It is an agency of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Wellroot serves over 200 children in the foster care system every year. The agency was called the United Methodist Children’s Home until December 2018.
Wellroot was previously located off South Columbia Drive in Decatur on the property that is now known as Legacy Park. The city of Decatur bought the property in 2017 for $40 million. The city and the Decatur Housing Authority are currently working on building the South Housing Village at Legacy Park, which will be 132 units of affordable housing.
The apartments at 750 East Lake Drive are some of Decatur’s naturally occurring affordable housing units, and city leaders are looking for ways to preserve this kind of housing. Ashe previously said that Decatur’s commitment to affordable housing is one of the reasons Wellroot was excited about the apartments.
“We absolutely plan to keep this location affordable, as we are big supporters of affordable housing, creating community, and lifting up those in need,” she previously said. “We do have a primary targeted population for this location, which is those young adults and possibly families who are in our programs.”
In December 2022, some renovations were done to bring the property up to code. The renovations included new roofs and gutters, redoing the electrical system, as well as internal upgrades. Ashe also told Decaturish that new railings went up the week of Feb. 13, 2023.
Phase two renovations will focus on aesthetic improvements, such as liming the brick and upgrading the interior of the units.
“We are hoping to build behind the house an extension on the house where we can have both a community room and some laundry facilities,” Ashe previously said. “The original apartment was built back in the 50s, so there are no laundry hookups in the apartments, and we’d like to have laundry on the property so that the young people and the families that live there don’t have to go to the laundromat down the street.”
Wellroot anticipates finishing the project in about 10–12 months.
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