Historic Dayton ‘safety net’ for women ready for $17 million renovation

The YWCA of Dayton will hold a “wallbreaking” this week to mark the beginning of a $17.1 million renovation of the historic Dayton building that provides permanent housing for women and emergency shelter for those seeking refuge from domestic violence.

Two weeks ago, the capital campaign called Renovating Lives: Floor by Floor got a boost of $400,000 in federal housing dollars from Montgomery County, putting the fundraising effort started in 2014 $500,000 from its goal.

“We are close to having everything we need to ensure this full, top-down renovation of seven floors will ultimately speak to the needs of our community and the women that we serve,” said Shannon Isom, YWCA of Dayton president and CEO.

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On Tuesday at 4 p.m., an old wall on the first floor will be brought down. Within 18 months, the area will be gleaming with the new KeyBank Economic Empowerment Center, where women and families can receive job readiness training, financial literacy classes and educational courses, Isom said.

The bank was one of many corporate sponsors to provide grant money for the renovation that will include feature 65 updated permanent supportive housing apartments and a fully-renovated domestic violence shelter with 45 beds.

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No part of the building will go untouched and about 80 percent of the building will get completely renovated, Isom said. It will be just the third — but most major — renovation of the building at West Third and North Wilkinson Streets since it was built in 1913. The other two updates were in 1954 and 1992.

“We are literally gutting five of our seven floors, and we are going to refresh the first and second floor,” she said. “The building has just given all that it has and we want to make sure the space is refreshed for serving more women and serving more families.”

On any given day, about 125 women and children are residing in the building, according to YWCA records. Another 40 a day call the 24-hour crisis hotline.

The building has provided shelter for Yvette Slaughter since 2013. Since then, she has participated in resource groups, taken financial literacy classes and graduated from a cooking program. She also volunteers at the YWCA’s on-site thrift shop, Hope’s Closet.

“I’m so grateful to the YW for helping me feel empowered for the next steps ahead,” Slaughter said at a recent fundraising event.

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Isom said the rehab project will cost more than a new structure, but the organization is committed to its home of 105 years.

“Our total goal is $17.1 million, and that’s a huge number. But a lot of that number is that we are dedicated to staying on this corner and in this space downtown,” she said. “So renovating a building is a little more costly than building new. But that’s OK. We’re part of a safety net … Women and families know where we are.”

In addition to KeyBank, other private institutions have provided grant money for the project as well as government-sponsored institutions including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.

The federal dollars were also recently disbursed by Montgomery County for the project from a program allowing communities and nonprofits to partner to rehabilitate affordable housing, said Erik Collins, director of the county’s Community and Economic Development Department.

“The HOME Investment Partnership Funds are an essential part of the renovation that will serve as Permanent Supportive Housing units for the YWCA,” he said. “This is a very important project for our community … We recognize the importance of these 65 single-unit apartments within Montgomery County that will serve so many in need.”

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The current worn, institutional-looking permanent supportive housing units will be transformed into efficiency apartments with private bathrooms and kitchenettes. The new spaces will be more private and offer women — many who have experienced homelessness, have disabilities or both — the opportunity to gain independent living skills.

Walls in the new domestic violence shelter will flex to accommodate a single woman or a mother with up to six children. The area will also feature more and larger bathrooms, a quiet area, children’s play area and a library. The domestic violence shelter will also have a new, secure entrance to ensure anonymity and confidentiality.

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Heating and cooling systems and elevators will all be updated while the exterior will get new windows and the brick refreshed with tuck-pointing.

Isom said the needs of the building have changed over the years, but one thing remains constant.

“What has stayed steady even before 1913 when we were on this corner … is that the need to serve women has not changed.”

YWCA “wallbreaking”

When: 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 27

Where: 141 W. Third St., Dayton

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