ST. GEORGE — The completion of a long-awaited affordable housing complex was celebrated Thursday with a ribbon-cutting.
Called the RiverWalk Village, the 55-unit complex aims to provide a home for families and individuals who have found themselves homeless or unable to find housing due to high rental rates in the St. George area.
“The purpose is to provide low-income housing to families in … the Washington County area who are rent-burdened or have no place to go or can’t afford rent,” Jerri Gray, a regional property director for Danville Development, said Friday. “We have struggling families who have jobs and are responsible people who just can’t afford rent.”
Work crews were busy running around the RiverWalk complex Friday afternoon in order to have it ready for the eight families that were set to move in next week. They will be followed by others over the following month.
“We expect to have (RiverWalk) leased out by the end of November,” Gray said, and noted the majority of the apartments at RiverWalk were already leased out by people who hadn’t seen the actual apartments yet but were eager to move in.
The RiverWalk Village is not subsidized housing, Gray said, but is rather a tax-credit property that charges rent based on a percentage of the renter’s income.
Located at 2450 E. Dinosaur Crossing Drive near the Virgin River, the apartments can accommodate a single individual or a large family with one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units. It also has apartments designed around wheelchair use.
“RiverWalk is going to be a family community. It is very diverse,” Gray said. “We have different residents from the elderly to single people (and) families with children. We have full ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) units and units that are equipped with features for the hearing-impaired.”
Of the 55-rental units, 13 are being rented out at market value, Gray said.
The RiverWalk Village was originally proposed to the St. George City Council in 2016. The council was completely supportive of the project and gave it the go-ahead. However, issues arose along the way that delayed parts of the project, yet never derailed it.
“We faced a lot of obstacles, from meander line issues to title issues, all kinds of issues,” Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, said in May 2019 when ground was finally broken on the project.
Hollowell was emotional at times during Thursday’s event as she spoke about how grateful she was for the collaboration that took place between Switchpoint, the city of St. George and various other partners that made RiverWalk possible.
“I have never seen, in my 30-plus years of working, people come together like they did in St. George,” Hollowell said. “Everything we do as a team – that work together on homelessness – our main focus is ‘How do we treat people with love and dignity?’ because that’s where the change comes in.”
It’s not enough to give a person a place to sleep or to give them food, Hollowell added, it’s a matter of connecting with people to the point you are able to help them stand on their own by treating them with dignity. From there, the effects multiply, she said.
Since opening in fall 2014, it has been the goal of Switchpoint’s staff, supporters and volunteers, to help the homeless and those in need to become self-sufficient.
Similar to Switchpoint, offices at RiverWalk will provide case management for clients, as well as a computer lab that can be used for finding work and creating resumes, Hollowell said. There is also a community room on the first floor of the three-story complex where weekly activities will take place, she said.
Other features of the RiverWalk Village include a playground and a community garden.
During the ribbon-cutting presentation – which was also streamed online – videos from Switchpoint supporters and homeless advocates praising the completion of RiverWalk were played. They were accompanied by a video of a woman named Crystal, a single mother of four girls. They are among the families moving into RiverWalk soon.
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“I’m excited because I can feed my kids the way I want to feed my kids, because they miss mom’s cooking,” Crystal said.
Hollowell said simple acts like having a meal in one’s own home may not seem like a big deal, but to the person who is finally in that home, it means a lot.
“Dignity and having a place to call home – we hope that this is the start of something big in Washington County,” Hollowell said.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike also shared a few words prior to the ribbon-cutting.
“We’re told in scripture that we need to be doers of the word and not hearers only,” Pike said. “Surrounding us today are doers. … Thank you for being doers and not hearers only.”
The mayor also referenced a song from the Broadway musical production “Wicked,” titled “For Good,” and sang a few lines that ended, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
“That’s what our all attempting to do,” Pike said. “That’s what Carol and her team has done and the (Friends of Switchpoint) board. Let’s remember who will be changed for the most for good, and that is the residents, the people who will live here and benefit from the generosity of all those who contributed.”
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