WESTLAKE, Ohio — More than 40 members of Westlake’s Church on the Rise already know how they’ll spend their spare time for the next few months — making a home for a now-homeless family.
The church, on Crocker Road, is the first to sign up for a partnership with the City Mission and Cuyahoga Land Bank to provide permanent housing for families ready to leaveLaura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center. Laura’s Home is a program of the City Mission.
Using its 40-some volunteers, the Church on the Rise will rehab a home in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood that should be ready for a family by July, according to Paul Endrei, senior pastor of the church.
The New Horizons partnership pools the resources of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which will provide a heavily discounted house and technical assistance to a sponsoring church, and the City Mission, which will continue to provide case management, job placement, mental health care and other services to the families.
Church on the Rise, which already has an urban ministry, wants to encourage other suburban churches to take an active role in helping the homeless, said Endrei. If only 10 percent of the more than 700 congregations in the area adopted homeless families, “We could make a real dent in the problem,” he said.
“We want to help break the cycle of poverty, crime and violence,” Endrei said, noting that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. He said he hopes that Church on the Rise is able to rehab at least one house a year as part of the New Horizons program.
Rich Trickel, CEO of the City Mission, said more than 300 families a year stay at Laura’s Home, and many more have to be turned away because the center operates at almost constant capacity. He said the typical woman living there has from two to four children.
Laura’s Home provides mental health services, basic adult education, vocational training, life skills classes and help in finding a job. But even when the woman finds a job, it’s likely that she’ll be paid from $8.50 to $11.50 an hour — not enough to afford even a two-bedroom apartment in Cleveland, Trickel said.
“That knowledge brought us to a real crisis point. The need for affordable housing is overwhelming,” he said. And it’s why City Mission approached the Cuyahoga Land Bank about working together.
The land bank acquires foreclosed properties and offers them at drastically reduced prices to owners willing to rehab the homes and reduce neighborhood blight.
The first “Hope House,” as Endrei refers to it, was chosen because it’s near bus transportation, shopping, schools and medical services — important access for a family without a car. “We want to give hope to people…. We don’t just want to give them a place to stay, but a home to own,” he said.
During a one-year “proving period,” Endrei said, the family will have to demonstrate it is ready for home ownership by doing such things as paying the utility bills and maintaining the home. If that goes well, the family will get a no-interest loan from the church. The loan will be based on the church’s costs, not the higher, actual value of the house.
“It’s going to be like hitting the lottery for some very blessed, homeless family,” Endrei said. “What I really love about this is we’re not just giving people a fish; we’re teaching them how to fish.”
He said he thinks the continuing support services provided by City Mission also will help keep the family on track and in the home. City Mission staff will select the family that moves into the Old Brooklyn home.
Church on the Rise volunteers will be working at the home on Saturday, but Endrei said more volunteers from outside the church also are welcome now and as the project continues. Call 440-808-0200 for more information. “We’re happy for all the helping hands we can get,” he said.
Endrei said there are also other ways to get involved. For instance, he said, a local dentist has inquired about buying a house and turning it over to the church to do the necessary work.
An Elyria church, Beyond the Walls, is paying for the Hope House furnace and its installation, Endrei said. Gateway Electric and Ash-Ricks Plumbing also are helping out at the home, he said.
Trickel, the City Mission CEO, said the New Horizons partners are now in talks with two other churches interested in the project. More information is available by calling the City Mission at 216-431-3510.
“The need is just unbelievable,” he said.
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