About 19,000 people in Cuyahoga County experienced homelessness in 2020, according the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that a Cleveland resident working for minimum wage needs to work 60 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.
Additionally, The City Mission estimates that a single mother working a minimum wage job must work 124 hours each week to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment.
“Which doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else—caring for your kids, going to the store, doing all those things that a single mom would need to do,” saysLinda Uveges, The City Mission’s CEO.
Staff at the City Mission’s Laura’s Home everyday witness the effects of poverty and families experiencing homelessness through its New Horizons program at Laura’s Home—a program that helps empower woman with children to become homeowners and break the cycle of poverty.
In January, The City Mission expanded upon its goal of converting two houses a year into homes for New Horizons clients and partnered with Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity to create more affordable housing in Cleveland. Together, the two organizations plan to streamline the process of finding and rehabilitating housing.
“At Laura's Home, we are really focusing on holistic programs and holistic care for women and children in crisis and supporting and empowering them in their in every aspect of their lives—mental, emotional, spiritual, physical,” explains Uveges of this effort. “We want to look at that whole person. We're not just looking at one piece and saying. ‘well, we need to fix this.'” We are looking together at the whole family, so we can best care for the families and the residents that come to us.”
On Friday, Jan. 21, crew with The City Mission and Habitat for Humanity began demolition on a house on Ripley Road in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. Habitat for Humanity acquired the three-bedroom, one bathroom 1,489-square-foot house from the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the organization will donate it to The City Mission upon completion of the renovations. The City Mission will pay Habitat for the costs of the renovation work from funds specifically raised for this project—about $80,000.
“This house that we acquired from the Land Bank is in one of the best conditions [we've seen]," says Uveges. “I'm really excited about the location and the condition that it was in when we when we first received it. It just has good bones.”
When the renovation is finished this summer, a yet-to-be identified family will be able to easily move in. "We are setting that family up for success," says Uveges. "They will not have to incur any significant costs to the home as they move in,” adding that the family should not have to make any repairs for five to 10 years.
Although this house marks the ninth project The City Mission has done in the New Horizons program, Uveges says this is the first time they have partnered with Habitat for Humanity.
“Habitat for Humanity is also a faith-based organization and they’re experts in renovation and building,” she says. “We are not in the construction business, and we don’t remodel homes—that’s not our expertise—but we do care for women and children in crisis who are in need of affordable and safe housing. So, this is a great partnership.”
Laura’s Home program manager Mike Hahn says the project is also a partnership with the family as well. “We emphasize what they would call sweat equity—that the family is involved in the process, and they know it's not about just handing home over,” he explains. “The family is involved throughout. You're not just doing things for them—this is really empowering these moms as they come through our programs.”
Laura’s Home case managers will help identify the right family soon, Uveges and Hahn say.
The new homeowner initially will have to pay a $200-per-month program fee, and must pay all utilities, “to have some skin in the game,” says Uveges, but after the title transfers the fee is waived. The City Mission also covers property taxes and significant repairs for as long as the family is in the home.
The City Mission has been securing houses for New Horizons clients since 2014, with a goal of converting two houses a year, but Uveges says they’ve been averaging one home a year. She says she hopes the pace will pick up with the Habitat partnership.
"In the past, we’ve done all the construction and remodeling—whether it’s been volunteer-driven or through partnerships—so we really can’t control how quickly a home is done,” Uveges explains. “But since Habitat has a crew and they have established a presence in this field, I think they’ll be able to help us reach those goals.”
The current completion date is June, barring any delays. “It’s going to go quickly, hopefully, as long as nothing unfortunate takes place,” says Hahn. “It’s mostly cosmetic.”
Although Habitat has a solid crew of volunteers, Hahn says The City Mission welcomes additional volunteers. Anyone interested in working on the home project, or volunteering with Laura’s Home, can contact Hahn and he will put the volunteers in touch with the appropriate project manager.