December 14, 2011 [Eric Sandy, Sun News]
LAKEWOOD Vacant homes dot Cuyahoga County, affecting neighborhoods that otherwise host vibrant communities. And though that problem persists, the need for a creative solution also remains.
To address these housing crises, the Cuyahoga County land bank has targeted a new demographic of potential tenants as part of a unique approach to building and sustaining communities throughout Northeast Ohio.
Dozens of refugees from distant parts of the world arrive at Cleveland Hopkins Airport each month. The International Services Center (ISC) is one of several organizations that assists and resettles these individuals or families.
With language barriers, financial restraints and timing issues often getting in the way, however, refugees’ new lives in Northeast Ohio aren’t always simple matters.
“The challenge was that (the ICS) had these refugees who desperately wanted to become Americans. They wanted to work hard and they wanted to create a new life, but they had a housing challenge,” Dennis Roberts, director of programs and property management at the land bank, said.
The ongoing issue sparked a partnership between the Cuyahoga County land bank and the ISC. And after zeroing in on a target home in Lakewood, 1443 Hopkins Ave., the two organizations have already kickstarted a fruitful future.
Representatives from the two groups met at the home Dec. 14 to discuss how they got here and where they hope the “Discovering Home” program goes.
For the land bank, otherwise known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., this development offers a unique opportunity to affect neighborhoods in new ways. The families that will inhabit these homes (the land bank hopes to identify 5-7 more throughout 2012) are sure to be eager to become an active part of the neighborhood. Roberts said that, once on their financial feet, these former refugee families will be able to give much to their new cities.
And as far as finances go, Roberts said that the two groups are starting off by financing the future.
The costs of the renovation of the Hopkins Avenue house will be split between the two groups and financed mostly by corporate donations. Ultimately, though, the goal is self-sustainability, according to Roberts. The refugee tenants will pay rent and support the costs of the project themselves.
That family will be chosen in the near future. Their projected move-in date will be sometime around February 2012. Until then, renovations will continue.
With dedication to its goals, the “Discovering Home” program will continue to have an impact on Lakewood and beyond.
“It’s something that I think can be a model for other cities,” Karen Wishner, executive director of the ISC, said.
Mayor Michael Summers noted that the two organizations have found not only a great fit for themselves, but also for the Lakewood community.
“(This home) will be occupied by a family that will be thrilled to be here,” Summers said. He called on the city government and the local population to recognize this opportunity and come together in support of this example of the American dream.