One of our commitments at LGA is to build a better community, a goal that extends far beyond creating physical structures. St Jude’s Ranch Crossings is a prime example of one such signature project that returned immeasurable rewards.

St. Jude’s Ranch, headquartered in Boulder City, Nevada, has provided care for thousands of abused, neglected and abandoned children from its Nevada and Texas locations over a 40-year history. The programs at St. Jude’s are focused on helping these children and their families break the cycles of abuse and neglect that are perpetuated by continued dysfunction.

While the work accomplished by St. Jude’s is undeniably positive, there remained one unfortunate gap: foster care ends at age 18. The young adults who emerged from the foster care system when they became legal adults are considered high risk: they have no vocation, no means of supporting themselves, and usually no family to rely upon for help.

Prevent Child Abuse America reports that approximately 70 percent of young adults exiting the foster care community become homeless within the first 18 months if they are not eligible for further services. The costs related to these “disconnected youths” runs up quickly, between health care, welfare, homelessness, unemployment, and corrections.

St. Jude’s Ranch committed to filling this need in the social care system by creating a much-needed transition program for these young adults, consisting of a combination of counseling and housing. Residents would be required to work and enroll in classes, while attending counseling sessions to teach them about fiscal responsibility, job skills, and basic self-care and life training.

Although residents would be required to pay rent, 90 percent of these funds would be returned to them upon exiting the program, in order to facilitate their next step toward total independence. The units needed to be warm and inviting, similar to a home, yet stand up to the one- to two-year turnover rate that St. Jude’s held as a benchmark.

As a firm that met St. Jude’s criteria of combining sustainability and commitment to the community, LGA was brought on early in the design process in July 2010.

The design phase moved quickly from the conceptual stages throughout 2010, reaching completion in December of that year. Construction began in early 2011, and St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing celebrated its grand opening in the summer of 2012.

The project was funded in part by the grant specialists at Building Hope Nevada, working in conjunction with Correction Services for some of the furnishings construction. BHN obtained grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and assisted in finding additional funding sources from Help Hope Home and Clark County Continuum of Care, two programs committed to helping the homeless community of southern Nevada. The Ready for Life program, part of the Nevada Education Foundation, also contributed to this project.

One of the challenges involved with St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing included working with the existing lot size. At less than an acre, there was concern that the residential areas wouldn’t be roomy enough to feel like home, yet leave adequate space for community areas. In addition, St Jude’s and LGA would need to meet sustainability requirements across three separate metrics: financial, environmental and social.

In the end, we designed a structure that housed 15 independent living units, including one that meets ADA standards, and one designed for a hearing-impaired tenant, as well as a unit for an onsite housing manager. In addition to the individual units, LGA included community areas to provide another layer of support for residents through socialization.

Every 460 square foot unit is designed to make as efficient use of space as possible. Arranged like a studio apartment, each residence contains a small kitchen area, with a dining table that doubles as a workspace for homework and study. A full bathroom connects to the living space that has both couch and bed. To ensure longevity, built-in storage shelving and furniture are integrated with the unit. Each residence also features an interior wall-mounted bike rack, and a small semi-private outside patio.

To avoid an institutional look or feel, LGA elected to use colorful exteriors and interiors, as well as attractive landscaping. The entire structure rests in a secluded setting, and is protected by a locking gate that is the only entrance.

The community courtyard includes a barbecue, shaded patio and a grassy area for picnics. There is also an interior clubhouse, where residents can cook in the small kitchen or gather on the couches to watch TV. Adjoining this area is the general office, manager’s office and a conference room area where young people meet privately with their counselors.

The design also focused on sustainability, not just in terms of the project itself but in the services that St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing offers. This program serves as a foundation for at-risk kids to become productive members of society, able to give back to the community in the future.

As for environmental sustainability, care was taken to use additional insulation and high-quality construction materials whenever possible to ensure lower utility bills. The roofs were pitched to keep runoff water from entering the courtyard. Southerly facing roofs were prepared to receive future solar panels.

In the end, St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing delivered a much-needed interim solution for young adults struggling to make the transition from foster care to living independently in the real world. As the first and only program of its kind in southern Nevada, St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing gives these young adults the physical and emotional support environment they need to decide their next steps, moving them away from high-risk potential and into stable productivity.

LGA enjoyed the St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing as a positive experience from start to finish. There were very few complications, and those were resolved quickly. We have received a great deal of positive feedback about our use of land and resources.

LGA values collaborating on projects like this that give back to the community. The client’s goals fit seamlessly with ours, and our collective passion is reflected in the end result.

St. Jude’s Ranch Crossing is an LGA signature project that serves as the perfect symbol for our ongoing organizational focus: projects that are more than just buildings. As John Landsdell, Project Manager, puts it, “I’m proud of this project. It teaches young people less fortunate than you or I to look after themselves and the world. Our goal is to leave the planet in better condition than when we came into it.”