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Creating a living space for women, children to flourish

Art STITCH Design Shop’s rendering of the proposed Salem Cohousing Community.

Creating a living space for women, children to flourish
July 29
14:14 2022

By John Railey

Rasheeda Shankle, respected for the local nonprofit she started to help women and children break economic barriers, is transforming another dream to reality: a communal living development where women and children can live and work together to achieve their own dreams and overcome poverty. Through support from STITCH Design Shop, plans for the Salem Cohousing Community were developed and will be unveiled at a reception July 29.

“Rasheeda has been working with mothers and children for a long time, and from her experience she has determined that this is a needed resource for women and children,” said Carol Davis. Davis, who leads the Enterprise Center and its backing force, the S. G. Atkins Community Development Corporation, advises Shankle on the Salem Cohousing development.

“It will be a transformative space for families where they will receive support to heal and prosper,” Davis said. “Now that these beautiful plans are complete, we need to raise funds and get this built.”

Davis is also the special assistant for community development and engagement to Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood Robinson. The supporters of Shankle’s project include the STITCH Design Shop architectural firm and WSSU’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), which has acknowledged Shankle’s efforts with an Economic Mobility Opportunity Award as her work aligned with CSEM’s efforts to provide solutions to the challenge Winston-Salem and Forsyth County face in coming up with thousands of units of affordable housing in the next decade, as well as its work in helping women of modest means overcome economic barriers.

Julia Hess, the STITCH architect who led in drafting the plans for community housing building, said, “STITCH is honored to play a part in making Rasheeda’s vision come to fruition. Our team has worked extremely hard to find an innovative design solution to this complex project. The design concept for the project has evolved over the summer as we have dug deeper into Rasheeda’s vision for residents during their time living at Salem Cohousing. From the floor plan to the arrangement of windows and balconies, the project reflects the need to focus inward during residents’ two years at Salem Cohousing – to make space to focus on oneself, their family, and the women going through the journey with them.”

The team consisted of Hess, Interior Designer Matt Elliott, Interior Design Intern Ruth Hullette, and Architecture Interns Ribhav Murria and Hassan Shatta.

Shankle said: “And now, with inflation and rent increases, our families are struggling now more than they were before. First, the pandemic, and now, inflation has increased the cost of living, and our families are seeking alternative living arrangements and additional support for their families. The Salem Cohousing Community will create a sense of belonging and community, providing the participating women and children support and the opportunity to achieve desired goals.

“Some of us remember the ‘communes’ of the hippie movement in the 1960s and 1970s,” she said. “But locally, the communal living model is much older – and more practical and effective. The Moravians who settled Salem had their own communal living model. In the 21st century, we are bringing our own model of communal living, primarily for single mothers. They are a bedrock of under-resourced communities, sometimes informally coming together to face the challenges of education, transportation, housing, health-care and food access they face.”

The community housing projects will aim to boost the cooperation among single mothers and the resources available to them, giving the residents daily access to programming such as financial empowerment, job development, education, childcare, and psychological support. Through these programs, the women can expand their resources of income, time, and well-being to support their children.

Honorable Youth will unveil its project designs and plans for the Salem Cohousing Community on Friday, July 29.  Please RSVP via email by July 27 at rshankle@nullhonorableyouth.org.

For more information, please visit www.honorableyouth.org.

John Railey, raileyjb@nullgmail.com, is the writer-in-residence for CSEM, www.wssu.edu/csem.

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