YWCA aiming to raise $250,000 to renovate Janesville complex

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, May 31, 2013

— The window screen of the ground-floor apartment wasn't attached to the bottom of the window frame, so the woman who lives there with her two children won't open the window.

“It's a big safety concern,” said the 27-year-old single mother of two, ages 6 and 18 months.

She lives at the Jeffris Flats, an 11-unit apartment complex that provides transitional housing for domestic violence survivors in the YWCA's Transitions for Women Program.

The loose window screen and a rotting railing on the steep outdoor stairs are among dozens of repairs needed at the apartment building at 318-320 Dodge St., YWCA officials said.

That's why YWCA Rock County has launched a Fix the Flats capital campaign to make $250,000 worth of improvements to the 129-year-old, 12,100-square-foot complex.

Two buildings joined by a central entrance make up the Jeffris Flats in the West Milwaukee Street Historic District. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The two-story masonry building hasn't been renovated since the YWCA took ownership in 1993, said Jeff Bealles, YWCA development director.

Flooring, cabinetry, electrical infrastructure, windows, fixtures, appliances, trim, drywall and paint plus air conditioners and a furnace are on the list of interior work that totals $132,000.

Outside, the building needs repair to the roof, stairs, landscaping, windows, breezeway and masonry, adding $118,000 to the project.

Fees, permits, administration and miscellaneous expenses add $18,000, Bealles said.

The YWCA secured a grant from a local foundation to match the first $66,000 given by the community and to double the project's startup funds. Bealles is confident the money will be raised because $30,000 already has been donated.

The remaining $36,000 that needs to be pledged or raised by Dec. 31 will pay for the cost of the interior renovations, he said.

The YWCA has applied for two more grants with a goal of completing the renovation in phases to avoid displacing residents.

The target is to finish work by the end of 2014.

“We want this to be unobtrusive as possible,” he said.

The building recently was home to 11 women and 33 children.

The maintenance and repair fund of less than $10,000 a year can't keep up with the cost of repairs needed on the aging building that has had daily wear from hundreds of tenants over 20 years, said Martha Pearson, director of the YWCA's Transitions for Women Program.

“Things are falling apart. We've got kids here, and we don't want anyone to get hurt,” she said.

In addition to creating a safe, functional building, the YWCA also wants to be a good steward of a historic building, Bealles said.

“It's important we provide them with a nice, comfortable place so they can thrive in this unique program—the only one of its kind in Janesville. For these families this is the first step toward a new life—safety, stability and self-sufficiency,” he said.

The program has 17 on a waiting list.

YWCA leaders realized it would be more cost-effective to replace old windows, cabinets and flooring than to spend money for repeated repairs, Bealles said.

“This way financial resources can continue to be invested in programming for the women and children rather than on repairs,” he said.

Programming includes case management and supportive services that focus on establishing violence-free homes while developing plans to become self-sufficient.

Last updated: 10:30 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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