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A visit to Good Shepherd's Lakeside, as Wilmington considers a new land donation for housing

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BOWER CORWIN / Good Shepherd
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WHQR
The Lakeside property near Greenfield Lake, managed by Good Shepherd.

Wilmington city council may vote next month to give unused land to build non-profit permanent supportive housing for homeless people. Good Shepherd Center said this would be a key step in housing Wilmington’s most vulnerable residents.

Good Shepherd’s Liz Carbone, gave WHQR a tour of Lakeside Reserve, a permanent supportive housing complex next to Greenfield Lake. Its baby blue and navy buildings are flanked by rocking chairs where a couple of residents are sitting.

WHQR's Kelly Kenoyer, described the scene, “it's just very peaceful. You can hear all the bugs chattering. Some birds occasionally. It's super quiet other than the little bit of traffic going by.”

The complex has 40 units total, for people who are disabled and have had long periods of homelessness throughout their life. Residents pay no more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, and can receive support from the on-site case manager. Carbone said this helps meet the affordable housing crisis in our community- though it only fulfills the needs at the lowest end of the socioeconomic ladder, who are likely to end up homeless because of their limited income. But recent years have pushed even the working class to the brink.

“You probably can't afford a two-bedroom apartment working two full-time, minimum wage jobs, you know, so you could be out here working 80 hours a week," she said, describing the plight of residents in the greater Wilmington area who can't find housing. "These folks are some of our hardest-working neighbors. They're the person that's driving your child to school on the bus."

Each unit is 660 square feet, with nine-foot ceilings and wheelchair accessibility. Carbone said Good Shepherd designed the property with the neighborhood’s character in mind.

“We've actually been doing some reaching out to the neighbors around this street and around just the lake, and one person was like, 'I wish that my landscaping looks that good' or, you know, that 'this is cuter than my neighbor's house.' So we take a lot of pride in not only having it the structure itself being really nice, but taking really good care of the property and just being good neighbors," she said.

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Good Shepherd
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WHQR
Inside a unit at Lakewside.

Now, advocates at Good Shepherd are hoping to build more permanent supportive housing, this time along Carolina Beach Road on the former site of Wilmington Fire Station 6.

City Council will decide whether or not to convey that land to Good Shepherd during their September 6 meeting. Katrina Knight, Good Shepherd’s executive director, is hopeful the vote will go in their favor.

The new site would be smaller than Lakeside Reserve, with 32 units. But Knight said that would still make a big difference.

“We came up with a number of, you know, needing at least 100 more permanent supportive housing units. So, again, this would not solve that. It would be headed in that direction," Knight said.

Still, this would require a lot of funding — tens of millions of dollars, according to Knight. Good Shepherd will launch a fundraising campaign for this project and others in the next couple of weeks. Knight said that amount comes from their level of commitment towards housing.

“It's the longer term commitment, how do you how do you continue to subsidize rent for 40 or 32 or what have you, folks who maybe at best have $250 to contribute each month?" Knight asked. "The expense 10 years in and 20 years in, to keep it not only livable for them, but you know, attractive and healthy. That is a big undertaking."

Luckily, Knight said, they’ve been through this before with building Lakeside Reserve. And she’s seen that as a success.

“In this case, our community really responded with Lakeside, and we met our goals faster than we thought we would," she said.

When the first residents moved into Lakeside, Carbone said each one was given a houseplant as a gift. WHQR got to tag along with Carbone to visit one resident who had kept that plant ever since.

“And I didn't realize that that was hers, when she was showing off that huge plant and the big, you know, drum. So that was really special to see that, you know, five years later, she still has her plant. It's growing and flourishing," Carbone said.

Grace Vitaglione is a multimedia journalist, recently graduated from American University. I’m attracted to issues of inequity and my reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, I’ve investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast and produced student-led video stories.