By Megan Marley
Social Media Coordinator
A previous history of evictions, convictions or instability can make it tough for some to get good housing. So Catholic Charities is taking a hands on approach to help solve the problem.
“We have 500+ (people) that we know can pay rent because we helped assist them in finding a job,” said Jarrod Sanderson, director of Housing Development for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “On paper, they’re a risk. But we have the benefit of knowing them and know now they’re employed and making better decisions.”
“Neighborhoods of Hope” will provide a house and Catholic Charities’ development and support programs tailored to the needs of the person. The plan involves repairing or rebuilding on donated private properties or lots purchased through the Kansas City Land Bank. The houses are then rented out to individuals and families in Catholic Charities’ development programs. Rent paid could eventually be used as equity towards purchasing the home, and any money Catholic Charities receives from the sale is put back into building more houses.
“Within a reasonable amount of time, if they’re interested and have proven that they have gotten to that necessary level of financial stability, we’re willing to sell the houses to them. And we have several banks already who have said they’re willing to work with them on loans,” said Stephen Hilliard, executive director of the Catholic Charities Foundation. He said that even if the housing doesn’t work out for an individual, an eviction will not be put on their record.
“We’re not landlords, we provide services. Housing is a piece of the services,” he said.
The first Neighborhoods of Hope home recently launched in northeast Kansas City. Sanderson said that the veteran’s family now living there is on track to achieve a number of goals, and stable housing allows them to do that.
“For us, housing is just a piece of the puzzle; there are a lot of other things we are doing, and we’ll never just see it as the bricks and mortar,” said Sanderson. He said that it also is part of an overall revitalization of neighborhoods and communities.
“There’s a lot of evidence across the country that when vacant lots and houses are turned into new homes where there are stable families there, it leaves nowhere for crime to be,” he said. Catholic Charities’ approach is to build, not tear down: if they can’t build a house, it will be a park or something else that improves the community.
Two other properties in the same area are in the acquisition process, and applications for over 30 others have been submitted. While Neighborhoods of Hope is just starting out in south and northeast Kansas City, Hilliard says they won’t just stop there.
“We don’t feel geographically bound to KC. We’ve got 27 counties. Are we going to be in 27 counties? Not overnight. But the goal would be to be in their region. It’s a transferrable model,” he said.