In Practice
HUD USER Home > PD&R Edge Home > In Practice
 

The Courtyard Offers Stability and Opportunity for Fort Wayne Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Photograph of a two-story residential building extending around three sides of a landscaped courtyard.The Courtyard provides affordable housing with supportive services for youth aging out of foster care in a building designed to create a feeling of home. Credit: Biggs Property Management

The Courtyard in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a 36-unit apartment building for youth aging out of foster care who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income. The development provides residents, many of whom have experienced trauma and are at risk of housing instability, with safe housing and access to an array of social services. Support services to develop self-sufficiency are available to residents who want them. In addition, Courtyard residents are empowered to play an active role in its operations through a tenant council. The Courtyard’s supportive and safe environment helps residents both stabilize their lives and advance their personal goals.

Fulfilling a Need

The Courtyard opened in 2014 as the first supportive housing in Indiana serving young adults aged 18 to 25 who are aging out of foster care, experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness. In addition to 24 one-bedroom units, the two-story building consists of 12 two-bedroom units that can accommodate families. Residents are required to pay rent, but they pay no more than 30 percent of their income because the units come with Section 8 project-based vouchers from the Fort Wayne Housing Authority. The Courtyard was codeveloped by Biggs TC Development and the nonprofit Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN), which is the property owner and lead social service provider. Financing for the $8.7 million development included approximately $6 million in equity from low-income housing tax credits and nearly $1 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.

Living in a Safe Home

The development team convened focus groups, including foster care youth, during the design process. The youth expressed a desire for a feeling of home that an institutional setting does not provide. According to Kevan Biggs, president and general manager of Biggs Property Management, which manages the property, the design team responded with several specific features: building details and massing reflecting those of nearby residences, a front porch at the main entrance, an entrance lobby with a domestic décor, and a landscaped courtyard with fountain.

Another major design goal was to encourage resident interaction. To promote formal and informal socializing, the Courtyard includes various common areas and amenities, including rooms for meetings, arts and crafts activities, and fitness programs. By design, these common spaces are placed so that residents must walk to these spaces, affording opportunities to interact with other residents along the way. The building’s hallways are wide, with alcoves and recreation areas for activities such as Ping-Pong. Residents, who organize social events with encouragement and support from staff, also use the lobby and other common areas for group dinners and movies.

Photograph of a commercial kitchen with stainless steel appliances, tables, and shelving.Services are available for Courtyard residents to develop self-sufficiency and job skills, including food preparation in the commercial kitchen. Credit: Biggs Property Management

Gaining Stability and Self-Sufficiency

The primary objective of the Courtyard’s services is to promote stability so that residents remain permanently housed. According to MaryClare Akers, manager of young adult programs at SCAN, staff use case management and therapy to help residents mitigate violent behavior and other conduct that might put their housing status at risk. Case managers focus on first addressing these trauma-induced conditions so that residents can then develop self-sufficiency. Each resident has access to a SCAN case manager to develop goals for self-sufficiency through an individual development plan. The plan serves as an outline of individualized health, life skills, and employment services that SCAN staff either provide directly or coordinate through other providers.

Employment training and resources provided onsite through Be SomeOne Now, a joint program of SCAN and Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development, help residents develop their careers. The Be SomeOne Now program provides participants with skills training and arranges apprenticeships at high-demand industries. The Courtyard hosts a presentation every week from an area employer and offers tours of nearby manufacturing plants, logistics firms, and other workplaces. Residents interested in the food services industry can use the Courtyard’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen to learn culinary and restaurant management skills. Residents can also learn other skills that promote self-sufficiency in the garden, where tenants can grow produce for their own use or to sell at area farmers’ markets. In addition, residents can earn income to help pay their rent by helping the property manager with operations and maintenance tasks.

Having a Voice

Through a resident-led tenant council, residents can let staff know about services and programming that they would like to have at the Courtyard. The council began as a formal entity with elected members and rules for participation but has evolved into an open meeting that residents attend when they need to raise an issue. According to Deanna Szyndrowski, chief executive officer of SCAN, the tenant council gives residents the opportunity to articulate grievances and negotiate solutions, which also helps ensure that the Courtyard’s services meet residents’ needs. To satisfy tenant requests, for example, the Courtyard plans to provide monthly nonviolence training through the Center for Nonviolence. The tenant council is one of several communication channels between staff and residents; others include surveys, a private Facebook group, and bulletin boards.

Recognition

The Courtyard is an example of how the Housing First model, combined with individualized supportive services and thoughtful design, can foster independence and personal growth for youth aging out of foster care. The Courtyard remains a stable home for 11 of the 36 original tenants. Residents are transitioning to adulthood through often difficult circumstances, including mental health issues, pregnancy, posttraumatic stress disorder, and the lack of a high school diploma, among others. Those who have trouble overcoming these challenges might either leave supportive housing in frustration or be evicted for inappropriate behavior. Akers notes that the Courtyard’s property management team and service staff have promoted stability by developing an approach that avoids evictions for tenants who have committed serious rules infractions; so far, 20 youth subject to eviction because of their behavior have continued to live in the Courtyard by agreeing to participate in additional services.

Susceptible

As a model for housing for youth aging out of foster care in Indiana, the Courtyard won the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s 2015 Award for Excellence in Affordable Housing in the category of Special Needs Housing. In addition, the Courtyard received the 2014 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for bringing a site that had been vacant for more than 20 years back to productive use.

Source:

The Courtyard. 2017. “A Little Bit About Us.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Corporation for Supportive Housing. 2016. “PHA Profile: Fort Wayne Housing Authority — The Courtyard.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, program manager of young adult programs at Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 28 April 2017; Documents provided by Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management; Stop Child Abuse and Neglect. n.d. “The Courtyard.” Accessed 3 May 2017; The Courtyard. 2017. “Features and Amenities.” Accessed 3 May 2017.

×

Source:

Corporation for Supportive Housing. 2015. “The Courtyard,” The Pipeline, 17 July. Accessed 3 May 2017; Corporation for Supportive Housing. 2016. “PHA Profile: Fort Wayne Housing Authority — The Courtyard.” Accessed 3 May 2017; City of Fort Wayne, Indiana. 2016. “The Courtyard Opens with Support from City.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Interview with George Guy, chief executive officer of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, 18 April 2017; Stop Child Abuse and Neglect. n.d. “Courtyard Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Joint interview with Kevan Biggs, president and general manager of Biggs Property Management; Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management; and Mike Blee, vice president of Biggs Property Management, 24 April 2017; The Courtyard. 2017. “Floorplans.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Indiana Affordable Housing Association. 2013. “Biggs Property Management Announces New Foster Care Housing Project,” press release, 21 May. Accessed 3 May 2017; The Courtyard. 2017. “Background.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Correspondence from Cynthia Snider, 27 April 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, manager of young adult programs at Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 28 April 2017; Correspondence from Deanna Szyndrowski, chief executive officer of Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 21 April 2017.

×

Source:

Joint interview with Kevan Biggs; Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management; and Mike Blee, vice president of Biggs Property Management, 24 April 2017; Documents provided by Cynthia Snider; Interview with MaryClare Akers, manager of young adult programs at Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 28 April 2017.

×

Source:

Joint interview with Kevan Biggs; Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management; and Mike Blee, vice president of Biggs Property Management, 24 April 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, manager of young adult programs at Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 28 April 2017; Documents provided by Cynthia Snider; The Courtyard. 2017. “Features and Amenities.” Accessed 3 May 2017.

×

Source:

Interview with MaryClare Akers, 28 April 2017; Interview with George Guy, chief executive officer of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, 18 April 2017; Documents provided by Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management; Stop Child Abuse and Neglect. n.d. “Courtyard Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Correspondence from Deanna Szyndrowski, chief executive officer of Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, 21 April 2017.

×

Source:

Stop Child Abuse and Neglect. n.d. “Be SomeOne Now.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, 28 April 2017; The Courtyard. 2017. “Features and Amenities.” Accessed 3 May 2017.

×

Source:

The Courtyard. 2017. “Features and Amenities.” Accessed 3 May 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, 28 April 2017; Correspondence from Deanna Szyndrowski, 21 April 2017.

×

Source:

Correspondence from Cynthia Snider, director of development and property management of Biggs Property Management, 28 April 2017; Interview with George Guy, chief executive officer of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, 18 April 2017; Interview with MaryClare Akers, 28 April 2017;

×

Source:

The Courtyard. 2014. “‘The Courtyard’ Receives 2014 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award,” press release, 27 February. Accessed 3 May 2017; Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. 2015. “Awards for Excellence,” IHCDA: The Magazine (Fall), 11. Accessed 3 May 2017.

×