Get Inspired: Featured Organizations

Making Housing Happen includes many stories about organizations and people working to create affordable housing and end homelessness. Read about some of them in these excerpts from the book. To learn more and purchase the book, please visit Wipf and Stock Publishers online.

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Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative: Transforming and Empowering Congregations

Lee Blons (pgs. 179–81)

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative is an organization committed to ending homelessness. We were founded by a Minneapolis congregation that witnessed and served homeless people on their doorstep every day and decided to address the roots of homelessness.

Our first major initiative was Lydia Apartments, the redevelopment of a vacant nursing home next to Plymouth Church into supportive housing for single adults who had experienced long term homelessness, many with chronic health issues such as mental illness or chemical dependency. The proposal was met with neighborhood resistance, including a year of picketing Plymouth Church and lawsuits against the City of Minneapolis, Plymouth Church and Beacon [formerly known as Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation] to prevent the housing from being developed. Ultimately, the broader community and the city supported Lydia Apartments, which opened in 2003. It’s worth noting that the same neighborhood association that organized protests now perceives our housing as a community asset and has supported subsequent Beacon developments.

We have since created or preserved 433 housing units; we now have 167 units in development at six sites. Our housing serves a variety of community needs, including newly arriving refugee families, homeless teen moms, young adults and low-income seniors.

Beacon’s Model

Like Plymouth Church, many congregations have the desire to create affordable housing in their own communities. What they usually don’t have is the expertise to manage a housing development from start to finish: working with architects, securing permits, applying to a complex array of funding channels, collaborating with construction professionals. We do have the expertise – and that’s why working with us empowers congregations to put their faith values into action in a truly meaningful, lasting way.

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An Ex-Prison

Bob Lupton (pgs. 81–86)

Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Prov 29:18, KJV

On a hill looking down into the heart of Atlanta sits a monstrous stone and concrete structure, a vacant, barred hulk, a reminder of a darker time in the city’s history. Known as the Atlanta Stockade, it was a place of gross inhumanity in the years following the Civil War, a prison that housed both hardened criminals and those too poor to pay fines for petty offenses. Men, women, and children as young as ten were indiscriminately crowded into large cells in which beastly behavior went unchecked. Some years the venereal disease rate among inmates was as high as 90 percent. Frequent public complaints claimed that family members sentenced there had simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. The official record documented only one death in the prison’s entire history—a man who had tuberculosis. Not until the 1950s, thirty years after the prison had been closed down, did highway excavation across the property turn up the skeletal remains of some fifty bodies with no record of who they were or how they got there.

In 1927, after decades of controversy, the city fathers decided to rid Atlanta—new queen of the South—of the Stockade stigma and voted to demolish it. But the building had been built too well. It had been constructed using a “brand new” technology known as steel reinforced poured concrete. Manufacturers claimed this material would become increasingly harder over time—perfect for prisons since it would only become increasingly impregnable as the years passed. The engineering tolerances were not tested at that time, however, and they substantially overbuilt the structure. Some of the walls were four feet thick; and the roof, all poured concrete, was sixteen inches thick. Demolition bids were prohibitive, so the building was abandoned. Vandals destroyed and burned everything that was combustible; but the concrete shell was indestructible, and the barred windows, like hollow eyes, looked down into the heart of the city.

Daring to Listen

After nearly a century of decay, signs of life began to stir about the old prison property. Renny Scott, an Episcopal priest who lived in the community, suggested that this might be a good location to shelter homeless families. The very thought of housing our most vulnerable citizens in a prison seemed inhospitable! Yet Scott persisted. We at FCS (Family Community Strategies) Urban Ministries agreed to at least invite a group of architects to tour the facility and determine if it could be made to feel homey.

Seven architects from several design firms arrived one morning to explore the old monstrosity. All had seen it from the expressway and were intrigued by the gothic architecture, but none had ever visited. Climbing over rubble and trash and feeling their way along dark, graffiti-covered halls, they emerged into an open, three-story atrium at the center. “Could this cold prison be made to feel warm and inviting?” we asked. When I offered them an “ancient” set of original blueprints uncovered in my research, it was as though I handed them the Dead Sea Scrolls. Obviously, such a remarkable, historic landmark would be an architect’s dream. They envisioned windows and light, textures and color—a world of creativity that I could not see. They saw columned porches and a grand entryway, charming loft apartments and spacious common areas. Over the next hour and a half I listened to an animated discussion about how this symbol of injustice could be transformed into a symbol of compassion.

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Mobilizing/Convening: Hyepin Im and KCCD

(pgs. 216–18)

Throughout history, God has inspired leaders to mobilize communities to worship and to respond to the needs and challenges of their times. Here we feature Hyepin Im and Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), which mobilizes Korean and other Asian Americans to network and partner with community and government groups to learn how to tap into resources and increase impact for community and housing development. KCCD is inspired by Matt 5:16: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The L.A. riots that stunned the nation in 1992 were a major turning point for Hyepin. Of the billion dollars in property damage, Korean Americans sustained half. “It was a devastating event for our community,” she says. When millions of dollars came to Los Angeles for rebuilding, very little came to the Korean community. The Korean community needed an advocate to tell its story. “When we were crying as a community we felt like no one was crying with us.

Another turning point for Hyepin was meeting Rev. Mark Whitlock who was then the executive director of FAME Renaissance, the community development corporation (CDC) of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church Los Angeles. FAME was deeply involved in rebuilding Los Angeles after the riots. While Hyepin grew up watching her parents in ministry help congregation members find cheap apartments, get jobs and access social services, Hyepin witnessed a church with its own numerous affordable housing complexes and a strong employment agency. “I just thought, wow! What a wonderful model with such scale of service and involvement!” Hoping to learn more, she embraced an offer to work with FAME to establish Renaissance Capital Partners, a venture capital fund that finances businesses.

Mark urged Hyepin to invite Asian American pastors to a conference convened by Andrew Cuomo, who was the HUD Secretary at that time. She saw the chance to connect the often forgotten Asian American church leaders with mainstream players. “In most conferences and communities,” she notes, “when they talk about minorities, they talk about the black and the brown, rarely the yellow.” More than sixty Asian American leaders across the US attended — demonstrating the desire to engage in community and economic development between Asian Americans and other groups. The need for an organization to act as a kind of marriage broker between the Korean community and groups involved in community development came into clear view. So Hyepin formed Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD) in March 2001. Two months later, they cosponsored their own summit with HUD’s Los Angeles office to bridge and unite nonprofit organizations and Korean churches to learn about and be trained in how to access funding for economic development. Three days before the conference, only ten participants had signed up when she had committed to 350 participants. Hyepin asked, “God, was this my idea?” As a reminder how she felt that day, Hyepin has a painting above her desk of Moses standing on the edge off the Red Sea, parting the waters. Convinced the event was God’s idea, by faith she plunged ahead. God brought 350 participants! With that momentum, Hyepin planned her next move.

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Jubilee Housing (Washington, DC): Producing a Hundredfold

Susan P. Ortmeyer, Elizabeth O’Connor, and Jill Shook (pgs. 68–78)

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.  —Matt 13:8–9

Church of the Saviour, like a tiny seed, is committed to following Jesus’ call on their lives. Many churches exist that are larger in numbers, but few have had as great an impact on housing ministries in our county. Obedience to Jesus led them to begin Jubilee Housing. 1

On November 1, 1973, a handful of Church of the Saviour members — Terry Flood, Barbara Moore, Bill Branner, and Carolyn Banker — who knew nothing about housing, decided to purchase two dilapidated fifty-year-old apartment buildings; and thus Jubilee Housing was born. With the buildings having names like The Ritz and The Mozart, who would have thought they had over 940 housing code violations and were teeming with frustrated, poor residents? But for these Church of the Saviour members, these deteriorating buildings and their residents would transform their lives, their congregation, and Washington, DC. It took 50,000 hours of volunteer time and $500,000 in grants to clean out the rats and garbage and to repair all the code violations to create ninety affordable units in those two buildings. Since those humble beginnings, like the tiny seed that fell on good soil, Church of the Saviour and its offshoot, Jubilee Housing, has produced a crop a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown, with eight renovated apartment buildings providing housing for more than 800 people, setting an example for housing ministries across the country.

All of Jubilee Housing’s buildings are located in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC, which is now an upscale, trendy neighborhood. With soaring rents surrounding them, Jubilee has maintained their rents at 40 percent of the market rate. Housing costs in Washington, DC, are among the most expensive in the country. Jubilee’s goal for poor and vulnerable families is not simply survival, but the redistribution of the resources needed to make life meaningful and purposeful. Not just an opportunity to live, but also a reason for life.

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5 Responses to “Get Inspired: Featured Organizations”

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  1. Intentional Neighboring, Transformed Neighborhoods | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - March 28, 2014

    […] Making Housing Happen – one of many inspiring examples. (You can read an excerpt of the chapter here, or purchase the book […]

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    […] began is featured on pages 81-86 of Making Housing Happen. Read an excerpt of the chapter here, and purchase the book from Wipf and Stock […]

  3. Intentional Neighboring, Transformed Neighborhoods – Part Four | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - April 11, 2014

    […] featured on pages 81-86 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt of the chapter here, and purchase the book from Wipf and Stock […]

  4. From Poverty to Possibility, One Family at a Time | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - April 24, 2014

    […] story of Jubilee Housing is on pages 69-78 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt here, and get the book from Wipf and Stock […]

  5. From Poverty to Possibility, One Family at a Time – Part Two | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - April 25, 2014

    […] story of Jubilee Housing is on pages 69-78 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt here, and get the book from Wipf and Stock […]

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