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New Austin campus aims to create path to success for single moms

Officials with a program that helps low-income single mothers forge a path to self-sufficiency are about to start construction on a campus in East Austin that will have 35 apartments and an early-childhood development center.

The nonprofit Jeremiah Program, based in Minnesota, plans a groundbreaking event Wednesday at the site of its future Moody Campus, at 1200 Paul Teresa Saldaña St.

The Moody Campus will be part of the 11-acre Guadalupe-Saldaña subdivision being developed in East Austin by Jeremiah’s local housing partner, the nonprofit Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation.

The new campus will consist of a 49,865-square-foot building with 35 furnished, two-bedroom apartments, along with a Child Development Center with five classrooms, a computer lab, playground areas and space for Jeremiah’s empowerment and life skills training.

Construction is due to start Dec. 14, and the first residents should be able to move in by September, said Shannon Moody, Jeremiah Program’s executive director.

The campus will be built at a cost of $8.7 million, she said. Jeremiah and the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp. are winding up a capital campaign to help close an $800,000 gap, she said.

The Austin Housing Finance Corporation’s board approved $2 million for the new campus last year. In addition, Jeremiah Program received $4 million from the Moody Foundation, after which the new campus is named, and $500,000 from the Nelson Puett Foundation.

The campus will be adjacent to four duplexes Jeremiah Program opened in 2013 in collaboration with the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, a developer of affordable housing.

Moody said the new apartments will serve families whose income is at or below 30 percent of the Austin area’s median, or about $18,000 for a family of two. Jeremiah Program participants must be single mothers, 18 or older, who will be pursuing a college education.

In addition to income requirements, mothers in Jeremiah Program must complete a 12-week personal empowerment course “to get them ready for the hard work ahead,” Moody said. A series of those classes is planned in 2016, she said.

Families headed by single mothers are four times as likely to live in poverty as families headed by married parents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Although 73 percent of single mothers work, their median family income is $23,000 per year, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study.

Jeremiah Program focuses on creating safe and affordable housing for families, providing early childhood education and teaching life skills. Jeremiah Program has locations in Austin, Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Fargo, N.D., as well as a pilot program in Boston.

Among the program’s recent graduates, 75 percent were employed at an average wage of $16.32 per hour and 25 percent were continuing their education at time of departure, according to an independent evaluation of Jeremiah Program by the St. Paul-based Wilder Institute.

Jeremiah Program officials said 14 percent of alumnae who responded to the most recent survey reported household incomes of $60,000 or more, while 59 percent had household incomes of $30,000 or more per year.

In addition to the 35 Moody Campus tenants, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation plans to build 75 units that will be a mix of rental and for-sale housing, said Mark Rogers, the development corporation’s executive director.

Rents will average about $550 a month, ranging from as low as $300 a month for a one-bedroom unit up to about $1,200 a month for a four- or five-bedroom home, Rogers said. Prices for the homes will range from $85,000 to about $180,000, he said.

Rogers said when he was approached by a Jeremiah Program representative about four years ago, “I could see immediately that their program would be a beautiful complement to our program.”

“Over the decades, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp. has seen so many of its single mothers struggling while they tried to juggle getting a college degree with working to feed their kids,” Rogers said. “Now, with our partnership, our single parents will have a real opportunity to create a better life for their families.”

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