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Innovative Foster Youth Housing on Fast Track to Opening in Fresno
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By Edward Smith
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 15, 2024
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The 96-unit Welcome Home Campus from Valley Teen Ranch at Herndon and Polk avenues in northwest Fresno will provide affordable housing options for youth aging out of the foster program. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Valley Teen Ranch broke ground Wednesday at Herndon and Polk avenues on a 96-unit campus they say will break the cycle of homelessness for Fresno County foster youth.

“That is the population that we have worked with for years, where we have our expertise at, and that we have a huge heart for.” — Joseph Evans, transitional living home program coordinator, Valley Teen Ranch

The organization says youth could move in as early as December.

The Welcome Home Campus from Valley Teen Ranch will offer modular affordable housing for young adults leaving the foster care system who do not have safe housing options.

“The special part about this project is that we have set aside 60 units specifically for youth and when I say youth I’m saying the ages 18 through 24 years old,” said Joseph Evans, the group’s transitional living home program coordinator. “That is the population that we have worked with for years, where we have our expertise at, and that we have a huge heart for.”

A rendering shows the finished product of the Welcome Home Campus by Valley Teen Ranch. (Valley Teen Ranch)

Modular Buildings ‘the Future’ of Affordable Housing

Not only is the modular-type complex the first in Fresno, but the city has never had a transitional housing project this size for young people, said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.

“We are going to see some firsts that occur in our city,” Dyer said.

With the units assembled and furnished elsewhere, modular construction drastically cuts down build times.

The plan is to be finished by November and have residents move in by December.

While construction workers prep the ground in Fresno, factory workers put up the walls and install furniture in Vallejo.

The units are shipped and craned into place, said Doug Obermann, project manager with Quiring General. All workers have to do is some roofing, some plumbing and electrical, and some exterior finishes.

With the units largely built in a factory, the developer doesn’t have to pay the high prevailing wages usually associated with affordable housing.

Obermann compared the process building with Legos.

“And who doesn’t like Legos? I know I do, which is why I’m in construction,” Obermann said.

Benson Thai, project manager for architectural company KTGY, said modular housing is the future of affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is critical and modular construction is going to get us there faster,” Thai said.

Renderings show the steps of the construction process behind modular buildings. (Valley Teen Ranch)

Valley Teen Ranch Had Planned for Duplexes When Project Fell in Their Lap

In addition to the one-bedroom apartments, the complex will have a laundry room, a multi-purpose room, office space, and a park.

Staff will also provide life skill coaching much like the youth at Valley Teen Ranch receive.

Eight full-time staff from the nonprofit will be on site.

The complex provides much-needed housing for youth transitioning out of the foster care system, Evans said.

Units will also accommodate fathers who need to take care of their children.

This will be the first time Valley Teen Ranch will be able to provide housing for youth with their own children.

“We have fathers that have come into our program who can’t be true fathers because they can’t have their kids spend the night with them,” Evans said. “And this is really going to give them the opportunity to be true fathers.”

Valley Teen Ranch to the Rescue

LifeBridge Church originally planned to build the project but the Fresno City Council declined to sign onto the church’s state funding application because of the church’s perceived anti-LGBT views.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development provided $21.9 million in HomeKey funding. The city provided $2.8 million of American Rescue Plan dollars.

After councilmembers denied the funding, Dyer connected pastor Kevin Foster with Evans from Valley Teen Ranch, Evans said.

Valley Teen Ranch has been offering transitional housing for 20 years and they were looking at expanding by purchasing a duplex or a 4-plex for housing opportunities when the offer to take on the project came to them.

The Welcome Home Campus will have open space throughout the complex. (Valley Teen Ranch)

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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