A panoramic view shows the model of a renovated room at the McGaw Men's Residence. The item on the left wall is a mirror. Credit: Wendi Kromash

The McGaw YMCA on Monday revealed a model room for its updated Men’s Residence, an important component of its capital campaign to raise $12.6 million for the renovation of the 156 single room occupancy units in its building at 1000 Grove St.

The Men’s Residence, on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the structure, has not been updated since the McGaw Y moved to its present address 92 years ago. On Monday, guests were given a tour of the inside and outside of the building to visualize where the renovated spaces would be and what they would look like.

“It feels brand new to be back in this room, seeing people face to face,” said a smiling Monique Parsons, McGaw Y Chief Executive Officer, as she addressed invited guests.

From left: John Pratt (Board Member), Nicole Woodard (Chief Operating Officer), Roland Fouché (Senior Director, Residence/Housing), Tom Walder (former Board member); Katie Trippi (Development team member), Monique Parsons (President and CEO). Credit: Wendi Kromash

The Thomas F. and Susan P. Moran Family Foundation provided a grant of $1.6 million to underwrite the pre-development costs of the project, which includes a new front entrance and lobby/communal area, renovated and modernized bedrooms and restrooms and updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

If all goes according to plan, Chief Development Officer Jodi Wickersheimer said, the Y hopes to begin work on the renovation sometime next summer.

The new covered entrance will be exclusively for residents. It includes an existing stairwell that will be renovated to include a lift for those who use wheelchairs. The lower lobby area, currently a drop-in child care area, will be reconfigured and renovated to include a welcome center, staff offices, individual mailboxes, bike storage and a large community room for classes and workshops, as well as televisions for entertainment.

The classes and workshops for residents will include programs on financial literacy, credit recovery, food security, job training and placement, future life planning and establishing medical care.

The model room shown to reporters was spacious, well-thought out for space utilization and designed with a modern yet timeless style. It includes new furniture (a single bed, desk, chair, desk lamp and mini refrigerator) and custom, built-in millwork that doubles the current storage space provided to residents.

Each unit will include new fire-rated Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant doors. The nearly antique windows will be replaced with energy-efficient windows with screens and window treatments for privacy.

Blue tape indicates where the new covered entrance will be located. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Architectural drawings for the restrooms on each floor show facilities that will be completely renovated, modernized and made ADA-compliant. Instead of open, communal showers, there will be six private stalls with changing rooms on each floor. In addition, more counter space and sinks will be added along with eight toilet stalls.

Throughout the Men’s Residence, the HVAC systems, lighting and stairwells will be updated and made more energy efficient. Each floor will include a refuse and recycling center, kitchenettes with two sinks and four microwaves, and a laundry room with two washers and two dryers. Currently, the residence has one kitchenette on the third floor and laundry facilities on the fourth floor.

McGaw Y staff and board members have included current residents in the planning process through focus groups and community meetings. They’ve encouraged questions and discussion of topics such as the physical plans, temporary living quarters during construction and the timing of the project. Maintaining the privacy, dignity and comfort of the residents is a priority. A staff member on Monday relayed one comment from a resident that reinforced the need for expanded kitchen facilities: “I just want to be able to wash my dishes where it’s not the same place I brush my teeth and shave.”

Affordable, temporary housing has been part of the Y’s mission from its beginning. The Evanston YMCA was founded in 1885 as a boarding house for men “in transition” from one place to another. Today the Y staff emphasizes bridge housing, case management and social services for residents until they can secure permanent housing. Roland Fouché, the Senior Director of Residence/Housing, and his staff help the men look to and prepare for the future.

From left: Woodard, Fouché and Parsons with a rendering of the new entrance. The portrait upper left is the YMCA’s namesake, Foster McGaw. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Each resident pays an average of $560 per month, an affordable rent helped in part by charitable gifts to the Y. The average monthly rent in Evanston is $1,376, according to Y officials.

According to information provided by the Y, 232 men reside at the McGaw YMCA in a typical year and the facility has an average occupancy rate of 98%.

Some demographics: Of the residents, 7% served in the armed forces and 14% were homeless prior to coming to the Y. More than half the residents (54%) have lived there up to nine years and 12% have been there 30 years or more. The largest age group, 47% of residents, is 65 and older; only 12% of residents are between 18 and 40. About 49% of residents are Black and 43% are white; the remaining 8% are Asian, Native American or some other category.

The McGaw Men’s Residence offers a sense of community and caring, a focus on health and wellness and support for residents’ employment goals. The Y staff hope living in a renovated space will add to that sense of community and well-being and will enhance residents’ dignity and self-esteem.

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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  1. May 13, 2022

    Dear Councilmember Revelle and Housing and Community Development Committee Members,

    I am writing as a former high school YMCA member from 1966 – 1970, a Camp Echo summer staff member for many years, Boys’ Department and subsequently Camp Echo Director 1977 – 1981, and President & CEO of the McGaw YMCA from 2003 – 2014. I will always be a supporter of the YMCA and of Evanston.

    For generations, people have encountered the Y and shared stories about after school, Camp Echo, the Children’s Center, Y-Clubs, Summer Camp, swim lessons, basketball, Zumba, Yoga, cycling and the list goes on and on. In contrast, the experiences of the men who have called the Y their home at some point, are not as known or shared. I hope my words of support give insight into the impact of this program and brings you closer to the importance of the Men’s Residence Renovation Project.

    Over the last 124 years and at 4 different locations, it is estimated that 10,000-15,000 men have lived at the Y as Resident Members. The legacy of our work in housing is unparalleled and the need for more affordable housing options remains high. Throughout Board and Executive leadership changes, the organizational commitment to housing has not wavered.

    I’d like to share a personal reflection on one former Resident Member, Paul. Paul called the McGaw YMCA home for 54 consecutive years until he moved first, needing more care, to the King Home and later the Presbyterian Home where he passed. I first met Paul when I was a high school YMCA member. Paul, a skilled carpenter, was a member of the Y’s Mens Club, a group of community volunteers, and for decades spent two weeks – one in the spring and one in the fall – helping open and close Camp Echo. When Paul’s twin brother (who lived for several years at the YMCA) passed around 2010, Paul was the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. Paul came into my office one day with a check, proceeds from the policy, to fund construction of camper cabin at Camp Echo. Paul subsequently named the McGaw YMCA as beneficiary of his estate. I was honored to know Paul, an inspiration and an example of how for some the McGaw YMCA provides more than a room, but indeed becomes a home.

    As you consider the $3M funding request before you, I urge you to confidently recommend this funding to City Council as a long-term investment in affordable housing that fully exemplifies the purposes of ARPA funding. Weigh the financial investment against the full tenure of the YMCA as a partner – from 1885 into the foreseeable future – along with the specifics of the project that overhauls the 156 SRO units, the 19,000 square feet of added program and gathering space, and the 30-year affordability agreement.

    The impact will be generational for the often-over-looked members of the community. By designating ARPA funds to this effort, you are truly acknowledging and seeing the Resident Members at the Y and in our community.

    Thank you for considering the full weight of this request and taking my personal endorsement into account. Supporting the McGaw YMCA on the Men’s Residence Renovation Project will bring the objectives of your committee work to fruition.

    Please contact me if you need any additional information.

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and support of McGaw YMCA.

    Kind regards,

    Bill Geiger
    Always supporting the community-strengthening work of the McGaw YMCA

  2. The men’s residence at the McGaw YMCA is a unique program that serves the single male community, well. It is a model program, over the years of the commitment of the “Y” to provide low-income housing. Other organizations can learn from this as the community looks at a model for single women.
    Thank you donors and McGaw leadership for taking on re-modeling the Men’s Residence.