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First glimpse into South Bend's homeless housing project

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When a long-time South Bend mom,her daughter and the rest of their daycarewalk in Rum Villagein South Bend, they alwaysstop just short of Calvert.

"Within the first two months, the cops were within two blocks of the daycare three times," she said.

That's why this mother doesn't support a permanent housing project that's set to begin construction in August. But despite any opposition, on Friday, the project took a step forward as Notre Dame architectural students proposed plans for the space.

"I don't think that's going to help this community at all," she said. "There's already enough crime over here."

The proposed project will provide about 30 studio-style apartments to homeless individuals in St. Joseph County. It will also house two counselors who may offer mental health services to the individuals.

People living there will have to pay rent based on income each month.

"We're attempting to house the most vulnerable in our community," said Marco Mariani, the Executive Director of the South Bend Heritage Foundation. "These would be individuals that may be making frequent visits to the emergency room...potentially have mental health issues and other challenges."

Several Notre Dame students pitched five different plans to community stakeholders in the plan, each provided a different view, layout and design for the building.

"We went to Boston and interviewed people in a similar supportive housing type," said student Martin Burns. "One thing that really mattered to them was having a place to meet."

Burns plan, along with his partner Ashley Rinks, suggested a community-type lounge, along with space for bikes and possibly a bus stop out front.

"We're creating a building that, yes, it may have over 30 apartment units in it, but it doesn't feel institutional," said Burns. "It feels welcoming like a home."

Building code requires the main entrance to be on the back side of the building.

"It's supposed to feel welcoming and because it's fronted on the back, it creates a certain sense of enclosure," said Burns.

Some residents, like the South Bend mother, expressed concern about more crime coming into the neighborhood and surrounding area.

Burns said he has a solution that's simple.

"The garden acts kind of a like a buffer," he said. "They have their own space and they're apart of the community but not necessarily forced to be all around."

Alliance Architects was hired to draft the building's plan. WSBT 22 was told the firm may take into consideration the designs from the Notre Dame architectural students.

Construction is set to begin in August.

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