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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
A group of organizers and officials watch as demolition begins Tuesday morning on the Duemling Clinic site to prepare for The Courtyard housing project.

Foster care housing project dawns

– A long-standing south-side eyesore felt the blows of the wrecking ball Tuesday to make way for housing to help young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

The Duemling Clinic building has been aging less than gracefully over the past two decades, abandoned on the northwest corner of Fairfield and Home avenues.

In October, planners announced that The Courtyard – a 36-unit apartment building for at-risk young adults ages 18 to 25 who have formerly been in the foster care system.

In partnership with Park Center Community Mental Health, Ohio-based Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth, or SAFY, will provide services on the site to help the residents “establish a lifestyle of work, recreation, and community enjoyment,” according to a written statement issued Tuesday.

It is the first such housing project in Indiana, the release said.

According to Donna Bolinger, the director of business development for SAFY, 36 percent of foster youth become homeless after aging out of the foster care system because of high housing costs and difficulty finding employment.

“Former foster youths … are one of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in the country today,” Bolinger said in the release. “ ‘The Courtyard’ gives former foster youth an opportunity to seize the day, make a home of their own and have hope and a future.”

SCAN – Stop Child Abuse and Neglect Fort Wayne – will own The Courtyard, which will be developed and built by Biggs Development LLC and Ideal Suburban Homes.

The project will include a commercial teaching kitchen, exercise room, arts and crafts room and an on-site urban garden. Counseling will be offered on-site, as will GED or high school diploma attainment assistance, employment and life coaching, according to the release.

Robert Duran, 20, a former SAFY client, is a member of the planning committee.

“I want a home. I want something of my own to be proud of, a fresh start, a home that is a blank canvas to fill up with what makes me the person I am,” he said in the release.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said the city has been looking for ways to revitalize the site for years and considers The Courtyard project a great addition to the neighborhood.

Construction on the complex is expected begin later this year and leasing would start in the beginning of 2014.

Funding for the project came through a variety of government and private sources, according to the release.