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YWCA purchases St Andrews Convent, will turn into housing, women's center

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The YWCA has purchased a former convent on San Antonio’s West Side and hopes to use it for women’s economic self-sufficiency.

The former St Andrews Convent will be transformed into a campus dedicated to helping women out of poverty.

The 24 apartments will center women under the poverty line. They will be focusing on women aged 17-25 who are “disconnected,” meaning they have dropped out of school, are unemployed or are underemployed.

“And yes, it is only 24 women (at a time), but there will be turnover and graduation. Two years might be enough for one woman to graduate into her own home,” said Francesca Rattray, CEO of YWCA San Antonio.

Rattray estimated there are as many as 70,000 women in the community who fit that description.

Other facilities on the property will be used for child care, job training, remote work and others as part of the agency's one stop Women’s Live, Learn, Work Center.

The programs could have a positive impact on women who have experienced domestic violence, which can cause homelessness.

“YWCA’s expansion into housing provides a welcome increase in housing capacity that will undoubtedly help families who have experienced domestic violence,” said Judge Monique Diaz, who is also on the collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence.

YWCA San Antonio plans to develop the other 7 acres with additional affordable housing in the future.

“Some ideas that we've talked about are tiny homes, to graduate, the women who are living in the main building to home ownership, right. They're on campus," Rattray said.

San Antonio lacks affordable housing options for many. The city estimated more than 95,000 were cost burdened — spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing.

The city will soon approve language for a historic $150 million bond measure for affordable housing. Rattray said the YWCA may target the funds when it begins to develop its campus.

"In our community, more than half of households in poverty are led by single mothers. YWCA San Antonio's purchase of the St Andrews Convent will provide a pathway out of poverty for women, especially single women of color," said District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo in a statement.

The organization paid $1.6 million for the 9-acre property. It was financed by Frost Bank. Mackenzie Scott, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the National Development Council provided grants.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive