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.