By Mark Kiekhaefer, Transformational Housing
Transformational Housing began as a response to the loss of rental space after the 2019 tornado. A group of concerned people from area churches listened, talked and prayed during that summer. In the fall we were presented with the offer of a historic building that had become uninhabitable due to a fire. We determined this would be a starting point for our efforts. We would rehab the building at 203 Cherry Street while developing a volunteer support network to come alongside residents to build the skills for self-sufficiency.
Our non-profit organization was officially recognized in April of 2020. We began rehab efforts on 203 Cherry a few weeks later. In retrospect, that project and the time required was a like an incubation process. As a team, we learned about each other and began developing a philosophy of coaching for our future residents. This included reading the book “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. The discussions that came as we read undergird our philosophy that we want to empower our residents by helping them identify goals and encouraging them toward their fulfillment. This means there were standards of accountability and expected progress. All this is to be carried out in a relational framework. We learned that poverty is as much relational as it is material. We want to use real estate (apartment units) to build relationships (with coaches and local church congregations) to help individuals move toward a sustainable life.
The rehab of 203 Cherry Street unfolded over a 20-month period. We were supported by generous financial gifts from local churches, concerned individuals and four area banks. The project cost about $350,000; most of this was completed with volunteer labor. Over 100 volunteers worked on the project with a core of about 20 who met weekly to “do the next thing.” In January and February 2022, we held open house events to showcase the rehab. We are grateful for the outcome. We anticipate that many will be helped over the upcoming years by the opportunity to live for a time at 203 Cherry Street. Meanwhile, our family selection committee and coaches were meeting to decide on our first occupants and gain equipment for supporting them. In March we welcomed them. Our coaches and supporting churches are learning what it means to walk with our residents. This includes weekly meeting with the coaches and the tenants and monthly meals sponsored by the supporting churches.
As we neared the completion of 203 Cherry Street, we discussed a long-range plan which calls for 35 housing units over the next 7–10 years. A second apartment building with three units was donated to Transformational Housing at the close of 2021. We will eventually do rehab and expansion, but at present it gives us three additional units which are currently occupied and generating a little income.
Meanwhile, a “next step” was proposed to us. The Jefferson City Housing Authority asked if we would consider purchasing the structure at 101 Jackson Street. This was one of nine properties acquired through eminent domain. Other properties had either been sold or the structure torn down; the Housing Authority needed to process this final property. We felt that this 120-year-old building could be renovated and used for apartments. We would repeat the work done at 203 Cherry Street only on a larger scale. There are different challenges, but with committed volunteers, we felt we could rehab 101 Jackson and develop five more apartments.
We applied and received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that will fund much of the rehab expenses. However, given the necessary accounting for a government grant, there will be a time lag between when work is performed and when funds are reimbursed. The immediate need at 101 Jackson was roof repair stemming from the 2019 tornado. We estimated those repairs to cost about $25,000 - $30,000. We applied for a United Way Community Support Grant to help with this cost, and we were awarded it in early June this year. As of July 10th, we have spent $12,000 (about 40%) to begin these repairs. We expect to use the remaining funds in the upcoming months to complete those repairs. For now, we have abated the immediate source of water infiltration. The property is stable, and roof and gutter repairs should be completed by the end of the year.
Transformational Housing is grateful for the outpouring of support from individuals, churches, banks and the United Way. Historic Preservation and neighborhood redevelopment is a side benefit to providing apartment units to help low-income families move toward self-sufficiency. There will be many challenges, for us as an organization and for the people we seek to come along side. Key to meeting those challenges is recruiting and training the volunteer coaches to work with our future residents. We welcome any who are interested in potentially becoming a coach or helping with a future rehab project. We look forward to future collaboration to make Jefferson City a great community for all of our residents.