The Fort Bend Women’s Center was awarded an Affordable Housing Program (AHP) subsidy of $236,500 from CommunityBank of Texas and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) on Feb. 9.
The funding will cover a portion of a $3.8 million expansion of an apartment complex in Richmond, where 22 new units — mostly one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments — will be built near the existing 27 units at the 30-acre facility, where 24 families already live.
FBWC’s mission is to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children find safety and self-sufficiency, according to its website.
Grants from the Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation and the George Foundation helped FBWC to acquire the property originally, FBWC Executive Director Vita Goodell said.
Funds from the Dorothy B. and Joe C. Watkins estate donated in 2019 will also contribute to the project.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made fundraising for organizations like FBWC more difficult.
“We thought that by the time we got the grant from Federal Home Loan Bank, we would already have several other vendors that we had in mind while lined up and ready to go,” Goodell said. “But the pandemic caused some of our backers, mostly foundations to kind of drop everything and focus on helping people with COVID, which was absolutely the right thing to do. That's what they needed to do. But it kind of delayed us in going forward with some of our fundraising.”
Goodell said despite a delay in fundraising due to the economic impact of the pandemic, she feels “very confident” that FBWC will have raised the funds necessary to cover the cost of the development in time to build the new units. She said the organization plans to build 11 of the units before the end of this year, and the rest during the following year.
The new housing is intended for long-term stays and is designed to aid women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or have had a traumatic brain injury or other mental health issues.
“When survivors and their children are ready to exit the emergency shelter and transition to independence, one of the chief factors that could cause them to return to their abuser is the inability to find an affordable place to live,” Goodell said. “The funds from CommunityBank of Texas and FHLB Dallas will help us build much-needed housing.”
AHP funds must be used to benefit households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median income for the area. According to U.S. Census data, the median income for Richmond between 2015-19 was $43,071.
Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of community investment at FHLB Dallas, said the scoring system that evaluates grant applicants prioritizes women affected by homelessness and domestic violence.
He said FHLB Dallas could award up to $750,000 per AHP project, and that FBWC said in its application that it planned to use $10,750 of AHP funding per unit.
“The merits of the project are what drives whether somebody gets a grant or not,” Hettrick said.
Phil Davis, Executive Vice President and Senior Regional CEO of CommunityBank of Texas in Sugar Land, said local bankers are eager to work with nonprofits and small businesses in their communities.
“(FBWC) is a great organization,” Davis said. “They just celebrated their 40th anniversary last year. They do a lot of good things for domestic abuse victims in Fort Bend County.”