A home. Is that not what we all are searching for? We desire a place to feel safe, known and loved. A place to lay our head after a long day. A place for laughter, family and friends.
Unfortunately, many in the community of Benton Harbor are struggling to find adequate housing. Currently, our city lacks affordable housing for low to middle-income families who do not qualify for subsidized housing. This leaves many in our city vulnerable to unfair rental conditions. Often, causing families to leave our city all-together.
Developers are focused on building middle to upper-income housing. This threatens to push out over 70% of our neighbors and friends who are low-income renters. In doing so, developers will rip the very fibers of our community apart. A relational tapestry will be torn to shreds.
This is not okay. This is not justice.
We desire justice for our community. We pray. We have a plan.
In 2015, Mosaic CCDA began to address Housing in Benton Harbor, another pillar of Community Development. Using Asset-Based Community Development strategy, we understand that home ownership is one of the primary building blocks to sustainable development and human flourishing. Instead of looking at what neighborhoods do not have we will focus on what they do have. Instead of paternalistically pitching ideas for neighborhood revitalization we will listen and empower.
We are not building homes for the sake of profit. Instead, we are focusing on creating homes that will be affordable investments for area residents. We are building homes to restore our community. A broken neighborhood breaks the spirit. Board by board and house by house, we are rebuilding hope.
Great Lakes Urban and Mosiac CCDA are partnering to rehab a Benton Harbor home in the Hillside community. I, Gabrielle Engle, am in process of purchasing this home. We chose the worst house on the block. You know, the eyesore house. The house everyone avoids and hopes burns down in the middle of the night. Where everyone else saw rotting wood and moldy paint we see beauty and potential.
Over the past three months, teams of people have donated their time and energy to rehab this early 1900’s home. Since beginning our work, we have watched the local neighborhood wake up from its slumber.
Hope is contagious.
A neighbor has been inspired to paint his home. Extra hands have been helping other homes with yard work. Area youth have been helping with painting and landscaping. A school is moving into a building a block away. Ideas are being shared. Dreams are coming back to life.
This, perhaps, is the most tangible way I, Gabrielle, have experienced the Kingdom of God. Others took one look at this home and saw no hope. Jesus looked at this home and saw a masterpiece. I have grown to love this home because, in many ways, its story is my own.
We are in need of help. In order to renovate this home, we have to rely on donations in order to keep the buying price equitable. No individual buyer would have ever taken a risk on this home. In order to revive a community, it takes a community.
Mosaic CCDA, Overflow Church, and Great Lakes Urban hope to raise $25,000 by October 1, 2017.
If you are interested in partnering please send checks to Great Lakes Urban, 427 Maple Ave., Holland, MI 49423 or donate online at http://igfn.us/vf/Housing. All donations will be deposited in a fund which will be used exclusively for the Benton Harbor Housing initiative. If you have any questions or are interested in helping please email firstname.lastname@example.org.