June 24, 2019 [Jordyn Grzelewski, The Plain Dealer]
CLEVELAND, Ohio — With beds for them and their children to sleep in and access to social services, women were getting back on their feet during their stays at Laura’s Home, a crisis center operated by The City Mission.
But when they got ready to leave, women, especially mothers, were having trouble finding good, affordable housing options.
So The City Mission reached out to the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., also known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is perhaps best known for demolishing thousands of vacant, blighted structures since it formed 10 years ago in response to the foreclosure crisis.
But another aspect of its work is rehabilitating distressed properties with the help of community partners, including dozens of local nonprofits. The land bank sells properties to these groups for $1; the nonprofits then rehabilitate them and use them to serve their clients.
Now, as the land bank prepares to shift its focus away from demolitions and toward rehabilitation and development, President and General Counsel Gus Frangos says he’d like the organization to expand its work with social-service-oriented groups. He sees them as important partners in developing and rehabilitating homes in the area’s weakest housing markets, where there is less likelihood of private investment.
To date, The City Mission has purchased five houses through the program. The deed is transferred to the tenant after she’s found employment, home renovations are done, a small program fee is paid and it’s determined she is ready for homeownership
“The partnership has been just invaluable,” said Linda Uveges, COO of the faith-based organization that serves people experiencing homelessness. “It’s a huge impact on these moms, but I’d say it’s even more impactful on their children. They’re growing up in a home. There’s stability in their lives.”
Next, The City Mission plans to work with the land bank on a multifamily transitional housing project.
Women of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit that serves women transitioning out of incarceration and homeless women veterans, has acquired two properties through the land bank. One, called Ariya House, is shared living. The other is a single-family home that is rented below market rate.
“Our goal is to help with the transition period,” said Executive Director Sheila Locatelli. “The land bank has been instrumental in allowing us to be able to do that, which is to allow the women to come into our house with no money and to give them that time to get themselves in a better place mentally and physically before they go after employment.”
Women of Hope, too, wants to add to its housing portfolio, as it sees a needing for transitional housing.
“I strongly believe that by helping the women, [it] helps reduce recidivism,” Locatelli said. “The biggest challenge is not having a safe place to live.”
Building Hope in the City, a grassroots faith-based group that serves near-West Side communities, decided to delve into home rehabilitation after leaders realized the importance of stable housing. They found that the impact of their work was being “blunted,” as Executive Director Brian Upton put it, because the people they serve were going home to blighted homes and neighborhoods.
“We recognize that housing is essential,” Upton said.
Building Hope in the City has acquired and rehabilitated a handful of homes in the Clark-Fulton and Stockyards neighborhoods. This month, the group will dedicate a home in Clark-Fulton that it will rent out for a program serving veterans who were experiencing homelessness. And over the next 10 years, the organization would like to develop a portfolio of 60 rental and rent-to-own properties.
“It’s about providing affordable rent, and it’s about providing life and vocational support, as a nonprofit, to our tenants so they can really start to move forward with their life goals,” Upton said.