Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Advocates’ ‘Place to Step Forward’ Nears Completion
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The Advocates plan to cut the ribbon on their new office and compassionate community housing project going up on River Street in Hailey in late Fall 2019.
 
Thursday, June 27, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Tricia Swartling has been staring at a set of blueprints and architectural renderings hanging on her office door for a year.

And, slowly, those blueprints have been taking shape in the form of a three-story building that will contain 12 apartments for families needing temporary housing and new office space for The Advocates.

“Look at this!” said the chief operating officer of The Advocates said on a recent walk-through as she examined a sliding door that will allow The Advocates to turn two apartments into one for larger families.

 
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The building, with its modern touch, was designed by Hollis Rumpeltes and is being built by KMV Builders.
 

Construction workers were scattered throughout the building, working on window slats that will allow light into the apartments and installing sliding patio doors that will open onto small balconies.

Light streamed through a newly installed rooftop atrium as Swartling began envisioning the possibilities for those who will benefit from the safe housing.

“We’re thinking about ways we might get the community to donate art with positive messages that can be installed in the offices and apartments. Maybe someone could head up a contest with cash prizes,” she mused.

“I just think art has a place, whether spoken, visual or musical, in helping people feel good,” added Swartling, whose office walls are covered with art.

 
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Tricia Swartling’s office boasts the first dollar contributed to the Safe Housing First Project, as well as the reminder that, “Darn! $ does not grow on trees!”
 

Some nice art would allow those who live here to imagine the possibilities, added Shannon Nichols, The Advocates’ director of development: “Maybe it would invite them to imagine what they want their life to be, to inspire them to come up with their own solutions. We don’t tell our clients: you need to do this or that. We ask them: Where do you want to go? What do you need to get there? And what steps do you need to take to get there? And how can we help you?”

It was a new board member who asked The Advocates where they wanted to go and what they needed to get there that led to the building going up on River Street.

The Advocates’ board had been planning to tear down a 90-year-old house that it currently uses for client services to build a multi-unit apartment building.

But they lamented that it wouldn’t be enough. The Advocates provide more than 5,700 nights of shelter and transitional housing for more than a hundred women and children annually. But 29 people were on a wait-list for new housing.

 
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Tricia Swartling, reviewing the building’s progress with Shannon Nichols, said that providing transitional housing provides “a place for people to step forward.”
 

The new board member volunteered a lot he and his wife owned on River Street, noting the commercial zoning offered more flexibility than a residential area would offer.

And David Patrie, of Sun Valley Economic Development, ventured that The Advocates could build as many units as reasonable since it was categorized as “safe housing.”

The 13,000-square-foot building will provide up to 12 transitional living units for up to 36 people as part of the only subsidized housing program for survivors of abuse, their children and their pets in Blaine, Camas, Custer and Lincoln counties. Once fully occupied, the new apartments will provide at least 13,000 additional nights of housing each year.

The building will also include space for client services offices and a 25-person classroom for Skills for Success and other classes, as well as free yoga, tai chi, meditation, and mindfulness classes that will be open to any nonprofit employee.

 
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The Safe Housing Campaign is headed up by Liz Cantor, Bill Boeger, Quin Curran, Kyle Lubeck and Kiki Martin, along with Tricia Swartling and Shannon Nichols.
 

A community garden, playground and dog run will complete the space outside.

“It’s going to be a real comfortable space—a space where people will feel proud of their home,” said Nichols.

In addition, Advocates personnel working there will model how to build healthy, non-violent relationships, Nichols added.

The Advocates opened a transitional house featuring four two-bedrooms on River Street a few years ago. But it’s an older building that takes a lot of maintenance.

The exterior of the new building, which features rooftop solar panels and radiant heating, is made of  phenolic resins or recycled plastic that looks like wood but will not have to be painted or stained. To cut costs, linoleum was used in the bathrooms. And rubber flooring is being installed to counter the wear and tear of frequent furniture moving.

 “We went for quality, for sustainability—we’ll never have to paint the exterior, which will save lots of money. And we need durability because we’re not carpenters,” said Swartling. “The building is very cost effective. It’s not extravagant. It’s comfortable, safe and it’s going to last for years.”

The Advocates hosted a sneak peek for major donors in March. One donor who liked what he saw immediately wrote out a check for a half-million dollars.

Another $1.4 million is needed to complete the $5.5 million project, and naming opportunities are available for individual apartments, the client services center, reception, the children’s play space, community gathering room and even the elevator.

Once the rest of the money is in hand, The Advocates hope to tear down one of their existing buildings and construct a stand-alone six-unit apartment building, for which $1.52 million of the total $5.5 million has been designated.

They hope to open it by late 2020. But, Swartling said, they would shove the first shovel in the ground tomorrow if the funding came through today.

“This is housing for humans. We want to be a place of healing. We want to have something nice for people, not a cheap apartment,” she added. “People say, ‘But they’re never going to want to move out.’ But it’s a badge of honor to graduate, to move on.”

Only about 8 percent of The Advocates’ clients need shelter. Clients average six months in the shelter and transitional housing.

The new housing helps address the lack of affordable housing in the community since domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children, noted Swartling. Survivors of domestic violence often have a harder time than others because they’re forced to leave their homes without their finances in order. Or, perhaps, their spouses control the finances.

Many families The Advocates assist wait nine to 12 months for a housing solution, meaning some sleep in cars, surf couches or sign leases for housing they can’t afford in the long term, said Swartling. Some people are forced to leave the community and their children’s schools to find housing.

“Having more housing is a game changer,” added Nichols, “Because it offers options for people to consider.”

“We want to create a community where everyone has a safe place to call home,” Swartling added. “We’re hoping people will step up to support The Advocates like they did Mountain Humane and the library. I want people to say, ‘Have you see this community’s amazing animal shelter? And do you know about the amazing transitional program they have?’ ”

ABOUT THE ADVOCATES:

The Advocates were founded in 1991 to support a young teenager who had been sexually abused. A group of women championed her cause and she was able to heal and move on to build a successful life.

In addition to providing shelter, the organization provides education about building healthy relationships, job training, financial education and bystander intervention programs for more than 4,000 adults and children.

The organization is funded through its annual fund drive, The Advocates’ Attic Thrift Store in Hailey, private and public foundation grants and the Black & White Soiree dinner, dance and auction that will be held Friday night at Trail Creek Cabin.

For more information, call 208-788-4191 or go online at www.theadvocatesorg.org.

 

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