BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—The YWCA of Binghamton and Broome County is expanding its footprint. The organization plans to build a new child care facility and affordable housing complex over roughly five acres downtown.
The plot will include the former Urban League building, which will be purchased and renovated for the project.
The YWCA will own the 60 new apartments set to be constructed, where residents will have access to social workers, job training and other supportive services provided by the non-profit. Just over half of the units will be set aside for seniors.
The organization currently houses up to 60 women and children a night at its location on Hawley Street, where both shelter beds and permanent housing are available. But Executive Director Carole Coppens said they have run out of room as the need continues to increase. The organization already added nine more beds this summer.
“We can’t do any more with housing within the confines of Hawley Street,” Coppens said.
The City of Binghamton is expected to contribute $500,000 in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to help develop the child care side of the project.
The YWCA currently has one classroom for each age group. According to Laura Gates-Weeks, director of the Young Wonders Early Childhood Center, the expansion will allow them to triple the number of children served, as well as broaden their after-school and summer programs.
“But infants and toddlers is really where we want to place the most attention of our expansion, because it’s an area that is severely underserved in the community,” Gates-Weeks said.
Pandemic quarantines have exacerbated the need for daycare nationwide, with many after-school programs forced to close or limit capacity. Gates-Weeks said a lack of child care is often one of the first barriers to stable employment.
“I hear a lot of people saying that people don’t want to go back to work, or that they can’t get employees,” she said. “Having more affordable access to child care and more available access to child care would greatly bridge that gap for a lot of employers and a lot of people that need to go back to work but can’t.”
Gates-Weeks said ensuring the new facility was accessible to the families they serve, who may walk or take public transportation to get to child care, was among their top priorities. The YWCA’s child care programs primarily serve low-income families, with around 80% receiving child care subsidies.
Coppens said construction for the project could begin within two years.