“All we want is a functional building to serve people—that’s it. It sounds so simple. But we’ve heard ‘no’ for more than 20 years,” says Chandra Bryant, Executive Director of Community Treatment and Corrections Center (CTCC), the only halfway house for adult male ex-offenders in Stark County, OH. “The challenge is that traditional banking institutions don’t understand our structure, or they just don’t have the appetite to fund our project. It’s been disheartening.”
For decades, CTCC has been working under two roofs: one that houses clients, and another that houses administrative offices and kitchens. Food preparation has been particularly challenging. Food is is prepared in one building, packed, transported to the other building, and then brought back for cleaning every day. Staff shuffle back and forth to meet with clients in one place and make phone calls in the other. The residence lacks air conditioning, which is challenging for clients as well as the staff that climb four flights of stairs to monitor them.
In late 2016, the facility financing questions that had dogged the agency for two decades became more urgent. The building was being auctioned, and CTCC wasn’t sure what the new landlords would do with the building. That’s when they found IFF.
“From our very first phone call with IFF, it’s been different. It wasn’t an automatic ‘no,’” Bryant said. “And every time we talked, it was just more hope and more hope and more hope.”
With the help of a $1.65 million infusion of New Markets Tax Credits supported financing from IFF, the agency will expand from 56 beds to 75 beds as well as achieve its long-time vision to bring housing and administrative functions under one roof. What’s more, the new facility will have additional space for expanded services already under Board consideration.
“New Markets deals typically involve much larger projects because of the complexity and transaction costs associated with tax credits,” said Bryan Kieler, IFF’s Director of Lending for Ohio. “But we believe the benefits of NMTC financing – the very low rates and 7-year, interest-only payments – can and should flow to smaller community projects like CTCC’s.”
To facilitate bringing NMTC financing to smaller projects, IFF dedicated 20 percent of its 2016 NMTC allocation to its innovative NMTC Loan Pool. The pool allows borrowers to receive the benefits of New Markets financing, while IFF covers the structuring costs. IFF manages the complex closing processes on behalf of the pool.
The new center is scheduled to open by fall 2018. As Bryant said: “The question for me was always: ‘How much more could we be if we could just have what we need? Now we’ll be able to answer that.”
The new facility will be named the Deion Cash Center for Change, an homage to Bryant’s mother, who served the organization from 1989-2007, including more than a decade as executive director.
“When we named the new center for my mother, so many people told me, ‘That’s the perfect way to honor Deion. She meant so much to me,’” Bryant said. “I’m still constantly running into people who tell me how wonderful she was – and she was. She was very serious about the work she did, and she had high expectations of every one of her clients and staff – including me. At work, she was ‘Mrs. Cash,’ and I was ‘Mrs. Bryant.’ She cut me zero slack. And that’s how it should be. She made me better. She made us all better.”
To say that Bryant is carrying on her mother’s work would be true, but incomplete – after all, Bryant has now served the organization for two years longer than her mother did. But their approach to clients was, according to Bryant, the same: “One of my main jobs is to tell people: You are not your past. We’re not concerned with what you did four years ago. Let’s start now. You weren’t born to be in and out of institutions. You were created for so much more. Let’s tap into that.”
(Date of loan: 2017. Date of story publication: January 2018)