Saturday, December 19, 2015

Letters From Prison: Leaves me awake at night with hurt and frustrations

December 19, I receive a letter from my P.O. Box from a state prison in Va., every couple of months this happens. Sometimes I just hold onto the unopened letter for weeks, not wanting to open it. Deep in my gut, before opening, I know I won't be able to help. Sometimes, they are from old tenants, that have gone back to prison, I'm not up to talking to them anymore. I'm spent. I have a "wheel house" we all do, mine is just loving people and telling folks they are worthy, I really can't fix much, not alone. I do the best I can with what I have, but I will tell you, prison letters kill me, on so many levels, I didn't sleep all night, which for me, is the worse thing in my life, not sleeping. I'm not good for many when I worry at night about others. Really, last night I felt anger about the person who wrote me, but ultimately, I know it didn't start as his fault, I'd guess he grew up with others going to prison, that's what we do, we emulate our parents, or guardians who raised us, or who we saw that gave us a small sense of direction or purpose. This writer; I'll call him #54321, that's what prison calls them, numbers, not even a name, you are no longer even a person in prison, just a number so that you don't go missing and they come after you, by your number. Mr. #54321 wants a place to stay, because he found out that is what HUM  can do, having no idea how this happens, unless he has access to google searches, but HUM is pretty clear, we are a "working, housing, non profit, rent to homeownership." This person tells me, he has a small amount of money, disability, but may lose it now b/c of prison, he's been there awhile b/c he's not sure he has it any more. The more I read, the more questions I have, the more angry I get about a system of punishment that really sets up people to be a FAILURE the rest of their lives, which my guess is, leads them back to prison, we call this "recidivism." After reading this letter my heart says; he will always be poor or in prison, we are lacking in resources to get these guys out of poverty, he will lead a life of crime.
I'm sure by now, YOU have answers, stating "No, he won't." He can do WHAT? He can't work, He is a Felon, a criminal, he has no money, no family, no one who cares about him, weather he ever comes home. But guess what, he has kids.....yes, he procreated before going to prison, unmarried, and "the babies momma let them go into foster care." That is what he said. All night I thought of those babies, all night long. They were LET GO! Those poor little broken babies, and the cycle begins again for those tiny little babies who did NOT ASK to be born, and now will suffer the system of foster care. Maybe they will be loved, maybe they will be molested, the truth is, no matter what; they just want to be with their parents; one is a crackhead, one is a prisoner. This takes me to "ProLifer's", I think of this all the time, because I spend my days dealing with broken adults, who were not loved, and they led a life of hurt and angst, and survived, and by Grace and Mercy they are trying to put their lives back together, but those who "make it" are few. People are "Pro life" as infants, but once they are no longer babies, we are no longer caring about "LIFE". These babies go to prison, because no one loved them.
All I can think of is who cares about those babies? No one. I want to write a letter of angst, where are you for these kids? Why did YOU leave them, why aren't you in school? Why aren't you TRYING to better yourself in prison, get a trade, something you CAN do when you get out. Apparently, our prison system isn't set up that way in every prison, some just sit and wait for time to pass, playing cards, eating, getting tattoos, wasting, but passing time.  Costing tax dollars to climb, and do nothing with this man to prepare him for exiting prison.  Now it is  7(seven) months before #54321 gets out, and he is concerned he has no place to go, because in prison, you need to tell someone at the prison gate, where you will live, if you have no where to live, you stay a little longer. Our systems of punishment don't work, neither on the inside or the outside, and especially never for the babies of prison families. You get punished for bad behavior, but what we forget to do is teach people how to live, after they have been punished, and the cycle of poverty begins: for the inmate, for the baby's mama, and for those precious "pro life" babies everyone wanted to have, until now, they are in foster care. When will we have solutions that work for this ferris wheel that never stops hurting people?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Meet our Homeless Monday Friends


"Timothy" is sporting new shoes! He was SUPER grateful! He couldn't wait to show me! He is "close" to getting a place to live after one year on streets. He has had a case worker working with him the ENTIRE time! Thankful for warmer weather!

We found 68 year old "Allison" who is sleeping in the woods! The whole homeless group agreed Allison should have this new sleeping bag! 


Fifty gifts given from Restoration Church, My homeless friends were so AMAZED and Thankful! You all made so many friends so Happy! Thank you, and "Homeless Denise" helped out in giving and felt so good! Super fun day!

"Jesus experienced homelessness at Christmas so that we could experience a love we could never lose." - Timothy Keller

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Homeownership with HUM

Video by Noah Carpenter

In the Summer of 2015, we decided to convert all HUM rental properties to homeownership properties. The current tenant at 5th Ave wasn't interested in homeownership or taking proper care of his home, so he decided to move out. Seven months and $16,000 in rehab later, we discovered a working family who had the dreams, desire, and fortitude to purchase the home.

Many people ask a single question, " Where do we find our families?". Most come from referrals and an application process that is normal. Many of us know a family who needs a second chance, a break, works hard and is willing to try. That is who we are looking for.

We want to know, "How long have you rented? What are your stumbling blocks for homeownership?". Many times it's young age decisions that have "PILED" up. No longer can you manage your mistakes, so you don't. WE want families in homes, but we also want families to take care of their history, so they can live free and clear of their skeletons! And, believe me, we ALL have them.

Everyone must put down one month's rent, then they need to save a 10% deposit for homeownership. For example, if you purchase a home for $50,000, you are going to need to put $5,000 down to start a homeowner contract. If you foreclose, you lose that $5,000. We call that "having skin in the game", something you do not want to lose. Typically, HUM gives that family one year to save. So far, HUM is the micro lender, charging a 1% interest rate to the homeowner. Legally, that is the LEAST amount we can charge. We do not give furniture to every family, if they have what they need, but we make sure the house has a washer & dryer, and All appliances necessary for a great start.

HUM makes sure every possible plumbing and electrical need is addressed, because owning a home can cause some renters to be fearful of what "may" happen in the future. We make sure our families know the importance of saving, because SOMETHING IS going to happen in the years to come. We do not want one broken down car or appliance to set a family spiraling into foreclosure, so saving in a bank is a priority.

Finally, we have begun to work with HOME, a housing non-profit that helps families repair their credit and get a conventional loan, with a grant included if they stay the course. We have three families in the homeownership program. All have been successful thus far. Zero have missed a single payment, and HUM is really proud of our homeowners and their desire to live in properties that they can feel proud they purchased. Homeownership leads to stable neighborhoods and to increased city tax dollars coming in, which in turns changes the city schools for the better. For any child or family, permanency in one home leads to success and stability in many ways.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Video Prize for the Amazing Raise

Hands Up Ministries and The Amazing Raise

Help our non-profit, Hands Up Ministries, compete for a video prize in The Amazing Raise. Watch this video by clicking the link above and share it from YouTube with all of your friends and family. Hands Up could win a $1500 prize if we come out on top with the most views. The winnings will help us continue to support affordable housing in Highland Park. Thank you for all the support!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Jason" and "Roger"

OK...for all those who are tired of the stories about Richmond's Homeless!
This is "Jason". He is here for LUNCH..a FREE Lunch, and some are, just helps. Jason I met the very first Monday I came to 2nd back in April....Jason was from Fla., no id, no phone, no job, living in shelters and on the streets, self conscious about a missing tooth. I think he is about 23/24. I looked for his story but can't find it!
He is SO HAPPY...ME TOO..Called his mom in Fla. That is ALL I DID...the rest Jason did...he needed his Identification Documents...Act OF CONGRESS!
5 Months Later...he is back in the game again, and so very happy! So proud...sometimes it takes months, sometimes years, sometimes never....You never know who you are going to touch, encourage, Love, or motivate...but you have to TALK to the friends in order to do the above...It always starts with Love. "What's your name? My name is Cassie!" Come....

This sweet man works at the "Penny Pub" washing dishes, says he's been here 3 times looking for me to see if I can help him find a place to SLEEP(Like a ROOM). "Roger" has been sleeping in the streets, he only makes $400.00 a month, never will
he find a place to live for $400.00 a month. I tell him, you need to work more, ask your boss.....get another job..."Cassie, I made so many mistakes when I was young. I was the oldest of 6 boys, lived in the projects, ran a muck, made super bad 15 I was in prison until I was 33! I forgot to tell you, he COULD NOT READ WHEN HE WENT TO PRISON! His mother said: "You better get ALL the education out of there you can..." He listened to her....came out with an associates degree, he said learning to read was the hardest thing he had ever done. We re killing our kids with Poor schools.
His story is heartbreaking, his story is not atypical. I asked him is he DONE? "Done?"
Yeah...ARE DONE RUNNING THE STREETS, ARE YOU DONE living a life of crime..."I am so done." Of course I can see in his eyes..he is done. My gut...he will never make it.
The system doesn't work well with Felons...very few care....he said he had to leave, he had to eat his lunch on the fly, he has a bike at 56, he didn't want to be late to where ever he was going.
I said can you drive? "If I could pay off my $8,000 fines from prison." $8,000 may as well be a million.....DMV runs the world.
Of all the people I met today....this is who I would pick to help....My gut says...he wants to MAKE IT!
Of course I want to help them all...but this man...never had a chance from the day he was born. These are the stories that break my heart for Jesus.....
This job is the very hardest job I've ever had....there are just no answers some days!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Meet "Andy"

Meet Andy: I am unsure of his age, he indeed looks older than he is, he is divorced, he has 4 young children, and lives under the hospital street bridge, that is in Highland Park.
Initially, he came over to me, we spoke last week he needed glasses, this week he asked for a second pair($2.00) and of course I gave them to him. He said he met an elderly lady in the park whose glasses were broke, he gave her his. WE talked for a long time, and he has many isssues,: one he lives under the bridge, two, he owes child support, and IS paying it, but this leaves him with $360 for the month to live, lastly, he rarely speaks to his kids, he said "they don't want to talk to me", If you look at his eyes closely, this is the end of our conversation, when we spoke of his children he got teary eyed. We also spoke of his parents and I asked him about thier whereabouts, he said "I don't have a relationship with my father or mother." "He wasn't a good father"
Then we talked about how that felt...blah, blah, blah, and isn't it ironic, the very things we HATED the most as children, we have somehow repeated as ADULTS, even when you SWEAR as kids, I WILL NEVER do that to my kids.
Here is Andy, alone under a bridge, 4 baby children he created with his then wife, home alone without a father....the cycle continues. We talked about that. It made him sad, It makes me mad. Fathers, are really important, parents are really important. Families are really important, we damage our kids when we put our feelings first, or when we have children and we are so broken, we shouldn't have had them. I am rambling of course, but hurt people, always hurt people. Andy is hurt. We offered Andy a place right on the spot, he was to call "Lester": last night....Lester had a room for him. Andy didn't call. Lester went looking for him under the bridge, he is a special man"Lester". Andy is special too...someone forgot to mention that to "Andy" when he was growing he lives under a bridge with no teeth.

Andy DID NOT Show up to get his ride to Lester's house, saw him today and he said he "lost" his number. I told him "Lester" came looking for him under the HP bridge, he was surprised. We talked to him today, told him about reducing his court costs for child support...."Andy" is happy or at least "Content" under the bridge. He is NOT ready to move..So what do we do? We move on.
Pray, love him, call him by name, sometimes that is enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Simplicity of a Thin Mint

Homeless Monday: "Simplicity of a Thin Mint"
Thanks to Stacy Dokos, from NHPC, she donated 30 cases of Girl Scout cookies to the Homeless Feeding Program at 2nd Presbyterian on Monday's.
The cookies were a "Hot Ticket Item" because there are no cookies to give to the homeless from the food bank.(keep that in mind when donating to feeding programs. Although we know we love to donate tuna, beans and peanut butter, the guys and women of the homeless program yesterday went "BONKERS" over three thin mints each. Plus, I swore to my colleagues, I couldn't give them away free or I'd be breaking the "NO FREE BOXES OUT RULE" to anyone. So in compliance, it made the day so beautiful. I'm not really sure if it was to THIN MINTS, or the LOVE that was in the room, but the two equaled a really happy day at 2nd yesterday. For the last four weeks we have all been going (Myself, Robert Morrison, Lena Robinson, and yesterday we added the love of Loretta Wallace), it was like have the dynamic duo plus two with me yesterday. We laughed and we cried, there is really very little the four of us can accomplish alone, but you add Love by listening, and perhaps throw in a cookie and spirits were higher yesterday. I'm so thankful for the trust in given to me to make sure the cookies go "where I say they will go", there is something magic about being honest and authentic with everyone we come in contact with. The homeless pour theirguts out to us, most times its such a harsh story that a hug is the only offer we have, but we give them one. One man said to me, "I haven't been touched in years, I appreciate that my smell doesn't offend you!" ME: "Are you kidding, what is more important than giving away love, that you just have laying around in your heart?"


Meet "Barbara" she is homeless and sleeping behind the convention center, with "men that are creepy". Barbara is so broken, sick, and really at the end of her rope. Barbara is 52, with a 4th grade education, she states she has brought her reading up to a 5th grade level, she says that with pride. After I lifted my mouth off the table i said..."How does this happen?" We are the same age, she walked out of the 4th grade and NO ONE ran after her. She said my parents were druggies and drunks, there was no one who cared. Lena states:' She took care of herself." Barbara agrees. Her problems are so big, i don't even know what to say or do. Lena(I Love Lena, she has a beautiful way with EVERYONE!) puts on her red cape and begins with: "Darlin' you just sit right down here with me, everything is going to be alright." I listen, knowing, it's not. Wondering how Lena can make this OK.
We brought her over to our table, she does get SSI(for most of us that is disability, usually $776.00 to last a month).
Every question Lena Robinson asked her she had tried, she told Lena "I do everything I am told, still no place to live." Her thoughtful sister tore up her BC(Birth Certificate), cut her EBT card and her SSI card up. (like a MasterCard, that her SSI money goes straight onto every first of the month)
You wonder HOW these people do not jump into an oncoming train, their lives are so messed up. Their families are equally messed up, or have "QUIT" on them. Many have stories and long histories of drug usage, Barbara admitted to being a cocaine user in her day, admittedly has HIV, but then there comes a time you wake up in a fog and ask yourself "How did I get here, and How do I get out?" If we believe in what God tells us, that every life matters, and that there is a plan for all of us, do you think this was HIS plan? I try to think not. Is it that Jesus wants US to take the "little tiny Barbara's by the hand" and love them anyway. I know for sure, I have been unlovable, but it didn't look so painful, and my story never got me HERE. By the time Lena & I and Robert (we made her feel like she was in a crisis intervention) were done with her, she had a new pair of glasses($1.00) she had found her phone, (she had lost it with all her contacts) and Lena had made a few calls, but truly, nothing was different. But if you look closely at the before and after photos, Barbara's face has changed, there is new light. She has a little more energy, and a little more hope, even though, nothing really got her out of living behind the convention center, I thought of her last night, as I laid in my AC home, under my crisp cotton sheets. Wondering, "How is Barbara tonight?" I did ask God, 'what is my part in this whole debacle of homelessness? How can we let this happen in Richmond, Va? What is the answer today for Barbara. If only We could get a few philanthropic folks to throw money our way, we could give Barbara a bed, a toliet and a hot plate, her life would FEEL like mine. Precious.

Update on Miss Barbara: Who last night slept behind the Richmond Convention Center
Today Lena Called me(5 pm/ish) and said she heard from "Barbara" and she has been housed in "Section 8" housing, she was given a two bedroom home with help. She will no longer sleep on the streets, she called Lena crying today...and "Thankful for giving her HOPE to get through another night!"
Loving Barbara through. If you are interested: Barbara will need household items: I will give her a bed(double), dresser, a small amount of 'used' furniture...She will need towels, sheets, household cleaners, trash bags, you know..a starter kit. Please, if you can only afford ONE item, make it a new item. One new towel. One new sheet set. No junk please. No Nick Nacks, Just one thing.
God is good!
Thanks for all your encouragement and prayers! Listen & Love!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

When is it time to QUIT?

We have turned a really hard and rigid corner, we have done the very best we could and we still are not qualified, capable enough to do what we "Dreamed" we could do. I dreamed of putting homeless into housing, mostly men; poor men who depend on housing from women, working poor men, men from prison, men from rehab, men with disabilities, men who were kicked out of thier family home. Why? Because so many men are so hurt and broken from a very early age, men are not aloud or taught to share hurt, at the very start of preschool, then puberty, by now, they know....something hurts but they are unable to articulate the pain, and No ONE ASKS. So many MEN were left as "Babies" and "Boys", "man up son....go out and play." Those were the answers they heard, "No Crying!"
I am a mother of three boys, and there is not a moment I wouldn't hesitate to hold them so tight they couldn't breathe I love them so much, unfortunately, boys/men don't always get the love they need, girls too, but my interest was(is) men. In this city, a poor mother with children gets benefits and attention, the more children, the faster they are housed, men get nothing in comparison. They need to go WORK!
You see it everywhere in the streets of the poor, boys raised without loving fathers, absent fathers, WHO IS MY FATHER?
It always comes down to one basic concept: LOVE. Can you Love me enough to get me through life? Is there ANYONE left who loves me? Most of the men I work with have been through everything, abandonment, beatings, ignored, failures in school, suspensions, kicked out, joined gangs, began to find value in "things", and the last step to the beautiful journey of what "unfathered boys and broken homes of men have gone through" we then send them to Prison.
I often say, we want "pro-life", but we don't want to LOVE these Babies THROUGH LIFE! Let them be born, into the worst of scenerios, but forget the most important concept that without love, we die, at least we die inside. LOVING hurt and broken people is not easy, and it is a full time job. Never forget, we are all broken and hurt in some way, it's your support network and Faith that saves most.

Just giving someone: a nice home, private bedroom, clean place, new bed, cable, internet, washer and dryer, fresh linens, new everything, as we discovered....just wasn't enough. HUM has two homes that were prepared for 8 men (total), we started in 2011, and we are OFFCIALLY DONE with that adventure, and many nights and days, it was more than an adventure we were willing or capable of dealing with.

Calls like: "I need a comb. I can't figure out the internet, I don't know how to work the computer, I need a tutor, Jimbob won't clean the bathroom, Billy, won't clean the stove, Jimbob left pee on the seat, Jimbob is trying to kill me, he has hidden a Butcher knife in the Trix box, calls to the police, changed locks everytime someone left mad(12 times), someone is using my soap, someone is stealing my food, someones is using my butter, Jeff is using Heroin, drug testing the whole house(often and expensive), Jerry is having prostitutes in the house, Mark is having his homeless friend spend the nights on our couch, no one will cut the grass, I did it last time, I can't pay this time, I only have enough for my methodone dose, I need a ride, My bike was stolen, I don't want to put books into our little library. Why can't we smoke in the house? Who is supposed to buy cleaning products and trash can bags? At Christmas, my roommate won't let my family come over, can you come help? Jerald is back in jail for shoplifting, can I have his stuff?" Can we have pets, can we eat in our rooms, we have mice now, Mike flooded the Washer & Dryer, John yelled at me, now I'm not speaking to him, he is not the manager.....the house is cold the house is hot, I need AC in my room...NOW. Exhausting.

After 5 years of a lot of drama, more drama that we could possibly handle as two people, we have decided to close both homes and sell to homeowners we have relationships with. Two families have transitioned to homeownership(HUM is the micro-lender), and HUM could not be happier, July 1st we will once again start over with a new model: we will rent only to families interested in home ownership, accountability, respect for thier own home, and want a different life, a better life, a chance at owning a home regarless of criminal background, regardless of credit HISTORY. We all have a history, but who is willing to try hard for the American dream?

You must hear me, it hasn't all been difficult, we have shared great moments of love and success: first cars, first boats, gone fishing, taken a first vacation, getting out of debt, paying fines, learning the computer, learning blackboard, learning how to print a document, back to college, first apartments without roommates. Some were very appreciative, many were entitled, many forgot we were just people, trying to make a difference. Many learned to open up a bank account, buy car insurance, pay off debts, pay child support, cut thier first CD, finish a project for the first time EVER in thier lives, pay rent on time, buy clothes for the first time, get all their affairs in order, call thier families for the first time since getting out of prison. Driving to Wilson N.C. to see a person's mother, since prison, for the first time clean(drugfree). Tearful moments, heartfelt moments, but as the end draws near, we want a Non Profit that can focus on those who WANT success, and there are real people who want that. We are finding them daily, we just cannot buy homes fast enough to place those deserving families, singles, couples into those homes that are needed.

In July we will purchase our 4th home into the non profit, after we once again, re-gut a home that the tenants decided wasn't worth thier time to take care of. That is what we are done with: disrespect, entitlement, freebies, no accountability, no ownership.

Pray for us. We really believe we have THE best life ever, we are NOT Done until God closes the door, we are not DONE with what God has called us to. We have done nothing but learn from our mistakes, our failures and our successes.
We have learned more about the City of Richmond than we ever knew, and it's not all good, far from what is needed. We have learned that the systems are over loaded, broken, taxed, workers have too big of case loads, many hate thier jobs, most are a little jaded with people. Many of the big non profits pay a lot of money out in salaries and get all the grants....We are not done yet.

With every failure or mistake we grow wiser and we just keep adjusting our methods. At many times it feels a little like a cat and mouse game, or "Survivor"..."Out Wit, Out Last, Out Play!"
We have a model that works, now we find those people interested in real life changes, and can take on the accountability and responsibilty of homeownership, which is not easy. If you have never owned a home, it's scary, if you don't have a savings, it's scary, you live in fear something will break. Many in poverty live in Crisis, we, HUM, are digging in until we succeed! We are not exactly sure what that looks like, but I think in time, we will be able to "FEEL" it!

Thanks to so many who continue to support our dreams and visions, we are determinded to make a difference in our lifetime. We know, we have a sustainable model, we intend to succeed. We feel called.

What can you see?

The first day I worked in the feeding program, I learned MOST Homeless over 50 cannot read. Not because they are illiterate, because the need simple reading glasses.
Purchased 25($25) pairs from the DOLLAR store, quietly asked people to read for me from a devotional book, to not cause an UPRISING..simple method.
If you cannot read, you cannot fill out applications, forms, read what you are signing..etc Reading helps you dream you can make it! I bought every level but 1.0, most are past that.

Can You give 5 mins of your time?

I met a mother & son, Donna(age 60) & Jeffrey(45), I sat down and asked how we could serve them bettter. Mother replies, "We are happy for the free meal". Asking if they are homeless the mother replies "No, we are both on SSI(disability) and live in a dowtown hotel, that takes most of our money to live, by the end of the month, we have very little left, so we are thankful to this church for serving lunch(2nd Pres)." They cannot afford regular housing, thier only options are cheap hotels, they tell me it's clean, and they get thier sheets changed once a week. I look at the son, who I later find out is my sisters age, b/c he gave me his birthdate. I tell him he looks sad, "are you OK?" He replies, "I'm Bipolar, I haven't had meds for one year." Me, "that must be tough, is there a reason you went off of them?" "I lost my medicaid card, we've moved so much, they told me it was sent a year ago, but it never came."
I offered to call for him, at first he was reluctant to give me his info, I got as far as I could with medicaid, they wouldn't give me his info. I did call them at thier hotel, and tell them what needed to be done, They told me "We'll see you next Monday, the hotel charges us for being on the phone!" The were tickled to get the Medicaid NUMBER (Toll Free), Donna needed reading glasses, to them, thier world was better.
BTW: There is Disability housing in Richmond, the application is 65 pages long, its available. I don't know enough about it. It's more prorated for thier income. I will find out more about it, but this couple tells me they are moving to OHIO at the end of the month, going to move where family is.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What have YOU learned over the last 4 years?

In April 2012, I went to Atlanta Ga. to meet Bob Lupton, author and Urban leader for 40 years of Urban Community Development and planning. Meeting Bob Lupton changed me for the following 4 years(and still), I feel like I have been in college once again for the last 4(8 years total, could have had my Ph.D by now) years, sadly graduation doesn't look like it's in sight. I have been in touch with Mr. Lupton every year since meeting him in Atlanta, last time we met was Dec. 2014, again, he filled me with great inspiration and great recommendations, still more changes and learning that needed to take place. When I started thinking I should be "doing more" for MY community, I was green and naive, had zero idea what lied ahead for my life(thanks be to God), EXCEPT, I knew, what I was doing on a daily weekly basis wasn't what I was being called to do. I had such a tugging, but had no idea what I should do or what it all meant. 2007 Help was needed in a church food pantry in the Northside, friends told me, it was thier home church, so I said..."Let's go!" This is where God had me start, right here in the thick of things, good and bad. 2009 I was still helping in that corner of the back of that local church, still not content that what I was doing was really making a transforming difference, I of course wasn't thinking that deeply, just doing what I knew, but knew very little. Each day that passed I learned and loved, I wasn't even sure what my purpose was except to build relationships with the community, I only knew that for sure. Love. 2009 We began the process of becoming a 501(c)3: Hands Up Ministries Finalized in 2009 As we waited for our non profit, JT(my husband) and I agreed, to liquidate our IRA, and we purchased 5 homes with our own money, in Northside(affordable housing was our thoughts) certain folks would follow, that was something that never happened. We now own 6 homes, including our own, we were bonkers, having no idea what was in our future again, Thanks be to God! 2011 Hands Up Ministries took another HUGE leap of Faith, we discoverd by random surveys, what most of our friends talked about repeatedly, was Housing. Affordable, Landlords Not Slumlords, and the possibility of Home ownership. "Holy Smokes Batman!", it was a leap of Faith we needed to take, we purchased our first non profit home, 2600 sq feet with non profit funds, we finally had enough money saved to buy this home in cash, then had to sink another $20,000 into renovations before we could let the first resident move in. There was a great need(and still is) for housing for single men, LONG STORY, but we were willing to try. We were definitely a wreck, this was the first home of this type. We dreamed of 10 men first, 2 in each bedroom, then we learned many had served YEARS in prison, stacked man over man, the dignified thing to do, was one person per bedroom(5 bedroom home). We thought we would open the house to those leaving drug rehab, and prison, but we were smart enough to insist on a job prior to moving in. We were highly unqualified for this group of people, with addictions, but we were willing. We were not successful in every aspect, but again, we learned a great deal. I was able to finally discern crack from heroin, something new in my life. I was lied to constantly, I was too kind, taken advantage of, rents weren't paid, it was a tough road, but we tried it, and we once again, learned a great deal about recovery and addictions. What we didin't do, was hire a manager who had years of recovery to guide us. Lesson learned 101. 2015 Four years of renting to men, we have changed our M.O. The above home will soon be a home for a family of three, we have finally found our niche, when we can find a family or singles who WANT a home, who can take care of a home, who value the accountability and responsibility, we are finally onto something. June 1, we move our first family into this HUGE home, we have housed over 50 men in this house, finally, with enough grit and grind, we are praying for a smooth 2015/2016 and more lessons learned. Currently, we have three non profit homes all 3 homes are filled with familes and couples who HUM is the microlender, no banks involved, the families save money, they would not have other qualified through a mortage brooker of ANY kind, this is a win win, for HUM and it becomes a sustainable non profit, and our tennants (through lots of education) become homeowners. We currently have mortages they all can afford and are no higher than they were paying in rent. This is how we will develope the neighborhood, take out the blighted homes, the folks who are peddling drugs will see, there is a new sherrif in town, not me, but new HOMEOWNSERS have reason now to take personal responsibility for THEIR neighborhood, it's not my neighborhood, its taking the neighborhood BACK, and not through gentrification. More personal stories to come, just wanted to quickly bring you up to date. Still in school, have learned a GREAT deal and willing to learn more, 8 years later. Hanging on nails embedded tightly, with God's Grace.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nuts and Bolts of Running a Non Profit: Everyday stories

I'm back, my head is full of stories, ups and downs, and they are long at times and they are painful. They are joy filled stories and they keep me plooding along in the trenches. The last time I wrote was April 2012, hard to believe I even wrote that long, but now, I know writing saves me. Running and starting a non profit isn't easy, keeping it running isn't easy, I heard a statistic that most Non profits crumble after 3 years, well I can see why now, but that will NOT happen here. Not today. There is so much work to be done, people to meet, houses to fill and give to families who qualify. What is taking so long? I want to share some of our stories, that you may not have heard. Yesterday, we have a home that is close to 100 years old, the HVAC was being replaced,($8000) last month, same home a broken water pipe from the city meter tour house of course...! More cash. I decided to walk downtown while the guys were working, I talked to the tennant, who is really a great friend, he agreed he would help watch the car, while I went downtown. The last thing he said to me when I got back, was "I cannot believe you, a white woman, would walk 8 miles, through the worst part of town, not be scared, and not be afraid." I thought about that as I was walking, I wasn't afraid, I had friends yell out to me..."Ms. Cassie, why are you walking?" Just walking. So happy to be there, and realizing my friends WALK everywhere, everyday! I look at it as: "Oh goody" I'm gonna TRY to walk 8 miles today, they are doomed into walked 8 or more miles everyday. What I call exercise, is life for most in the city without cars, bikes, or bus fare. I walked by so many beautiful churches, empty buildings, empty warehouses, and I walked by many homeless spots, where feces was present, cardboard was waiting for another night. The cardboard keeps the ground cold from seeping into your bones, or the bugs from easy access. These spots were a little hidden, not too much, because I stayed on the sidewalk. I noticed police walking around, like at any MOMENT, there would be a HUGE disruption, walked right past me, didn't speak. I need to teach classes on kindness. If I didn't speak yesterday(I was listening to music) I SMILED BIG, and you knew I was smiling at YOU! My friends smiled back, most. In fact I was on 3rd ave, coming back home, waving like Princess Diana to families on their porches, and I rolled my ankle, the side walk is NOT level. Something that Wyndham never experiences. I really enjoyed my walk, but my heart was so angry at ALL the delapedated, blighted empty homes in the city, something we as "suburban haves" would NEVER tolerate. These empty homes cause so much danger, fires, loss of lives, squatting, unpaid taxes, risks to passerbys. I saw one home with bricks on the roof...i was wondering..."what in the world?, Who would heave bricks on the roof"...silly me, the chimney had collapsed. At any moment, those bricks will fall off and nail someone in the head, they will probaby die, who is at fault? People are and can sue for anything, but when a brick falls on your head as you are walking on the sidewalk...who is at fault? NOT THE CITY! YOu cannot sue the city, we have tried. It is so hard to see the INJUSTICE of the HAVE NOTS and JUST because we have "money" we are considered the "haves." We just pick up our fancy phone, and let the "county" know, there is some stuff going on next door and I WANT IT TAKEN CARE OF! Heartache in the city, what can YOU do? What can I do more, I have done very little.