Providing Housing and Support Services for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in Des Moines, Iowa
Sixth Avenue Flats in Des Moines, Iowa has 42 affordable apartments, five of which are reserved for young adults aging out of foster care. Onsite support staff can assist residents, and a few service providers that are open to the public plan to move into the first floor.
Sixth Avenue Flats is a 42-unit affordable housing development in Des Moines, Iowa, that opened in July 2022. Developed by Hatch Development Group (HDG), Sixth Avenue Flats serves individuals and families who earn no more than 60 percent of the area median income. HDG partnered with Youth & Shelter Services (YSS), a local nonprofit serving youth and young adults facing housing instability, to set aside five units for young adults aging out of foster care. By providing support services and stable housing, Sixth Avenue Flats helps these youth transition to independent living.
The 5-story Sixth Avenue Flats building consists of 42 apartments, a mix of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units that range from approximately 700 to 1,300 square feet. All the apartments have new ENERGY STAR® appliances, including a washer and dryer, and the development features electric vehicle charging stations. Several units are live-work lofts where residents can work on the street-level first floor and live on the second floor. In addition, the building's design exceeded the energy-efficiency of standard new construction by more than 40 percent.
Sixth Avenue Flats is adjacent to a grocery store and a convenience store, and other stores, parks, colleges, and a large medical center are nearby. An outpatient counseling provider and financial services agency housed in the building will offer services to the broader community. The development is in Des Moines' River Bend neighborhood, approximately a mile from downtown. In addition to replacing a vacant lot that had become notorious for drug dealing, Sixth Avenue Flats is bringing new activity to River Bend, an up-and-coming neighborhood that has seen an uptick in new residents and businesses over the past decade.
Most of the development's funding came from low-income housing tax credit equity. The city of Des Moines supported the project with a forgivable loan of $164,000 based on projected tax increment financing revenue. Additional support came from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, which is funded by the state and county governments.
Helping Foster Youth Gain Independence
In addition to addressing a general demand for affordable housing, HDG recognized a particular need to house youth and young adults aging out of the foster care system. As youth between 18 and 21 age out of foster care, they often are left with minimal support and must find a place to live on their own. As Hope Metheny, the transitional housing program director for YSS, explained, "Youth are an especially hard population [to serve, because] their barriers to housing are unique." The lack of a credit score, a cosigner for a lease, or a rental history makes finding housing particularly difficult for this population. As a result, young adults leaving foster care often face housing instability. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, between 31 and 46 percent of youth exiting foster care experience homelessness by age 26. To help address these barriers, HDG partnered with YSS to reserve five units at Sixth Avenue Flats for recently fostered young adults who are experiencing homelessness.
The YSS apartments are for residents aged 18 to 24 who are referred by Polk County's Centralized Intake Center. YSS staff work with residents to transition them to a more independent living arrangement by the time they turn 25. "The youth here are housed under the rapid rehousing model, [and] YSS' job [is] to help them stay [in the building] or find a different place…[if] they want to move," Metheny said. YSS also offers rental assistance for up to 2 years supported by HUD's Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
In addition to receiving stable housing and rental assistance, residents benefit from several onsite services. Case managers work with each resident to create an individual quarterly case plan. The staff help residents address substance abuse and mental health challenges and offer group training in general life skills. The staff can also refer residents to other service providers for transportation assistance, parenting education, volunteer opportunities, and more. In addition, YSS partnered with Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) to help residents advance their educations. In addition to enrolling in a free introduction to college class at DMACC, residents may choose to pursue an associate's degree or training certificate. They also can take advantage of other DMACC services such as tutoring, mentoring, and career fairs. An employee at the college works directly with residents to help them access DMACC programs and services.
Many former participants in the foster care system continue to struggle with finding and maintaining employment as well as mental and physical health issues years after aging out. YSS employees actively monitor their clients’ physical and mental well-being during their residency at Sixth Avenue Flats. Within a few weeks of move-in, staff conduct Casey Life Skills Assessments to evaluate work and study habits, computer literacy, money management skills, and other metrics of independence, which help inform their clients’ case plans. Residents also complete an assessment before moving out and transitioning to independent living. Sixth Avenue Flats provides these vulnerable young adults with a safe and stable community through which they can transition into adulthood with support. In September 2023, Sixth Avenue Flats won the Innovation Award from the Iowa Finance Authority.
Kim Norvell. 2022. “Affordable Housing, Some for Youths Too Old for Foster Care, Opens on Des Moines’ Sixth Avenue,” Des Moines Register, 7 July. Accessed 8 September 2023; Hatch Development Group. 2021. “6th Avenue Flats.” Accessed 8 September 2023; YSS. n.d. “Sixth Avenue Flats Opens in Des Moines.” Accessed 8 September 2022. ×
Hatch Development Group. 2021. “6th Avenue Flats.” Accessed 8 September 2023; Kim Norvell. 2022. “Affordable Housing, Some for Youths Too Old for Foster Care, Opens on Des Moines’ Sixth Avenue,” Des Moines Register, 7 July. Accessed 8 September 2023; City of Des Moines Urban Design Review Board. 2021. “May 18, 2021 Meeting.” Accessed 9 September 2023. ×
Polk County Housing Trust Fund. 2022. “Sixth Avenue Flats,” YouTube video, 9 July. Accessed 8 September 2023; Donna Kimura. 2023. “Development Provides Housing, Opportunities for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care,” Affordable Housing Finance, 2 August. Accessed 8 September 2023; YSS. 2023. “YSS and GreenState Announce Partnership at Sixth Avenue Flats.” Accessed 8 September 2023. ×
Kim Norvell. 2022. “Affordable Housing, Some for Youths Too Old for Foster Care, Opens on Des Moines’ Sixth Avenue,” Des Moines Register, 7 July. Accessed 8 September 2023; City of Des Moines Urban Design Review Board. 2021. “May 18, 2021 Meeting.” Accessed 9 September 2023; City of Des Moines. 2021. “Resolution of Support for Workforce Housing Tax Credit Benefit Application To Be Submitted to the Iowa Economic Development Authority by Hatch Development Group, L.L.C. (Jack Hatch) for the Sixth Avenue Flats Project at 1230 6th Avenue.” Accessed 10 September 2023; Donna Kimura. 2023. “Development Provides Housing, Opportunities for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care,” Affordable Housing Finance, 2 August. Accessed 8 September 2023; Polk County Housing Trust Fund. n.d. “About the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.” Accessed 11 September 2023. ×
Youth.gov. n.d. “Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions.” Accessed 11 September 2023; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 2022. “Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18.” Accessed 13 September 2023; Email correspondence with Hope Metheny, transitional housing program director, YSS, 28 August 2023; Sharon McDonald. 2021. “Preventing Homelessness for Youth and Young Families in Foster Care: FY2021 Updates.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, 28 January. Accessed 11 September 2023. ×
Email correspondence with Hope Metheny, 28 August and 5 September 2023. ×
Email correspondence with Hope Metheny, 28 August and 5 September 2023; Hatch Development Group. 2021. “6th Avenue Flats.” Accessed 8 September 2023; Polk County Housing Trust Fund. 2022. “Sixth Avenue Flats,” YouTube video, 9 July. ×
Youth.gov. n.d. “Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions.” Accessed 11 September 2023; Email correspondence with Hope Metheny, 5 September 2023; Casey Family Programs. 2022. “Casey Life Skills Toolkit.” Accessed 11 September 2023. ×