- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

WALDO, Kan. (AP) - An apartment building opening in Waldo will soon be occupied by young people who are aging out of foster care.

The project led by reStart Inc., is designed to serve a vulnerable population and keep them from winding up with no place to live.

“To see this is so gratifying,” said Evelyn Craig, president and CEO of reStart, adding that the facility is designed “to prevent homelessness and have these young people live their lives, so it’s full of potential.”

An open house was held, and the first five residents are expected to move into their one-bedroom units before mid-November, Craig said. Residents are being screened by social service and housing agencies based on need, and the remaining nine residents should move in before the end of the year.

The Kansas City Star reports (https://bit.ly/1WBT5wS ) the building will house 14 people ages 18 to 24, who will be supervised around the clock by a resident manager-counselor. It will be the city’s first independent living alternative for young people who have aged out of foster care but aren’t yet ready to live on their own.

When construction began early this year, some Waldo residents and business representatives expressed concern about the troubled population it might serve.

They feared there would be a negative effect on property values and worried about safety and crime.

But Craig said reStart met with members of the Waldo Tower Homes Association and businesses in the area and those concerns were alleviated.

She said the Southtown Council had rolled out the welcome mat for the project and prospective new tenants.

“They’ve embraced us,” Craig said.

She noted that every resident will have a case manager and social support services. They are required to be in school, working, seeking employment and/or volunteering in the community.

Kurtis Marinez, president of the Waldo Tower Homes Association, said residents were at first fearful because reStart had not communicated with them about it, but discussions with the agency after construction started were productive.

“We had reStart come out and talk to us,” Marinez said. “We support it.”

The project team also included A.L. Huber General Contractor, Botwin Commercial Development, architectural firm El Dorado, FK Gibbs Co., Keelan Associates, ReDiscover, the Will to Succeed Foundation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The building was made possible with a $2.2 million HUD grant. The Will to Succeed Foundation, led by former Kansas City Chief Will Shields, donated furniture for 12 of the units in recognition of the 12 years that he played in the Pro Bowl.

Craig said more such housing is needed for this group of young people. In 2013, she said, more than 800 young adults aged out of foster care in Jackson County.

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