All the neighbors were curious when a team of volunteers from Westlake’s Church on the Rise descended on a vacant house in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood on Saturday
The team tore out drywall, cleaned up landscaping and generally prepared for a renovation that will create a home for a now-homeless family.
The church is partnering with the City Mission and Cuyahoga Land Bank to provide permanent housing for families ready to leave Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a City Mission program. Church on the Rise is the first of what organizers hope will be many congregations that join the New Horizons effort.
Paul Endrei, senior pastor of the Westlake church, said he now has 80 volunteers signed up to work in shifts at the house, which he expects to have ready for its new occupants this summer.
The New Horizons partnership pools the resources of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which provides a heavily discounted house and technical assistance, and the City Mission, which will continue to provide case management, job placement, mental health care and other services to the families.
Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, said New Horizons is a chance to “turn lemons into lemonade” by giving new life to vacant properties and addressing human needs. He said that by working with various development partners, the land bank has spurred the rehabilitation of more than 800 properties.
Once the first house is ready, the family to move in will be chosen by City Mission, which will continue to provide support services. During a one-year “proving period,” Endrei said, the family will have to demonstrate it is ready for homeownership 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.
Endrei is hoping that other congregations will join his in the New Horizons program. “I think we can do 100 houses a year if we work together. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream,” he said on Saturday. “I think it’s a vision.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with the Church on the Rise team is asked to call 440-808-0200 for more information.
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