Ministry of Caring breaks ground for new affordable housing project


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Nearly four years after announcing plans for a housing project for low-income senior citizens on Wilmington’s East Side, the Ministry of Caring broke ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II. The latest addition to the Ministry’s network of facilities will provide desperately needed affordable housing when it opens next year, according to Brother Ronald Giannone, a Capuchin priest who is the executive director.

Brother Ronald Giannone, a Franciscan Capuchin priest, and other dignitaries brake ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II on 10th Street in Wilmington. wwwDonBlakePhotography.
Brother Ronald Giannone, a Franciscan Capuchin priest (third from right), and other dignitaries brake ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II on 10th Street in Wilmington. wwwDonBlakePhotography.

“If you go to any senior housing project, especially those that create affordable housing, the (waiting) list is an arm’s length long,” he said. “We have a hundred on our waiting list at Sacred Heart Village I on the west side.

“Believe me, the place will be full before we open the doors.”

Sacred Heart Village II will be located on 10th Street between Kirkwood and Spruce streets, near Howard High School. A large crowd attended the groundbreaking, including Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Rep. John Carney, state and local elected officials, a representative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, representatives of foundations that helped fund the project, and local residents.

Sacred Heart Village II is part of HUD’s Section 202 program, which provides housing for low-income seniors. Residents will be charged 30 percent of their income to live in one of the 26 units. HUD will pay the other 70 percent. The village is designed so that residents can “age in place,” with transportation and activities, a convenience store and café, recreational activities, off-street parking, security and access to other amenities.

“Projects like this … are really an anti-poverty housing success program,” Brother Ronald said. “Once the poor live in this house, they can live there the rest of their life. (Section 202) is one of the most successful programs.”

Brother Ronald said those on the waiting list for Sacred Heart Village I, located on North Monroe Street, will receive letters inviting them to apply for the new location, as will local residents.

Mark Reardon, past president of the Ministry of Caring’s board of directors, said at the groundbreaking that the project has been delayed since its approval in January 2011 by numerous financial, political and legal challenges, including a lawsuit that was intended to prevent it from being built. The lawsuit, filed by two area residents, was resolved in the Ministry of Caring’s favor by the state Supreme Court. All those challenges were reasons not to proceed, but “there was one good reason to build it. It was the right thing to do,” Reardon said.

In his remarks to the crowd, Brother Ronald said the village represents what can happen when parties get together with a single purpose. Sacred Heart Village II received funding or assistance from four levels of government – federal, state, county and city – and was aided by private foundations, dedicated Ministry of Caring employees and others committed to the mission, such as the lawyers who offered their services pro bono.

“God has heard our cry and will gather us together again as we dedicate this building next year,” he said.

HUD provided a grant of $4.2 million, while the Delaware State Housing Authority contributed $1.3 million. The city of Wilmington and New Castle County also awarded grants, and the Laffey McHugh Foundation, the Longwood Foundation, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and the Welfare Foundation are supporting the project. The total cost of Sacred Heart Village is estimated at $7.1 million.

Markell took the opportunity to praise Brother Ronald, as did most of the speakers, for his commitment to the poor in Delaware. The Ministry of Caring, he said, transforms lives.

“You were the guiding light. You were the driver,” he told Brother Ronald.

With the number of people waiting for housing, coupled with the increasing older population, this may not be the last project for the Ministry of Caring, Brother Ronald said. “I think we need to build Sacred Heart Village III, IV, V and VI.”