By Reverend Joan C. Ross
It has been three months to the date that we received the final deeds for the properties purchase from what was the largest tax foreclosure auction in the history of our country. The purchase of 14 properties was made possible by the successful fundraising efforts of the Detroit People’s Platform and the Storehouse of Hope Client’s Choice Food Pantry and a host of really faith-filled, believing partners, supporters and friends.
The campaign was called “Keep Our Homes Detroit” and was launch under a Go Fund Me campaign which lasted eight days. In the auction it was estimated that there were nearly 8,000 of the homes which still had families still leaving in those homes. Our goal was to keep as many families in their homes and not see more displacement happen. The effort brought out 321 supporters from all over the world and raised over $108,000. Prior to this campaign, we had received support from local partners and had raised $40,000 which enabled us to purchase one additional property, bringing our total to 15 properties purchased to.
But what we want to report on today is the progress that has been made over the past three months. And believe me, we have been busy. Our vision was to establish the first Community Land Trust in Detroit (CLT’s as they are called). You can learn more about CLT’s on our website: www.thestorehouseofhope.org.
Our first effort was to get to the families (once we had clear ownership of the properties) and educate them to the vision that we have for CLT and how the goal was to keep them in their homes. So we invited each family to attend the Annual Dinner for the Storehouse of Hope which was held on November 6th. As of now, ten of the houses are participating and are excited about the CLT, one elderly gentlemen had moved out and into a senior community (he said he’d move back once he heard about the CLT, but we think it was best for him to stay put, but four families have not responded to any contact that we have made. It is very likely that those families moved out or “self-evicted” themselves once they heard about the auction happening. But now, without their coming forward, we will have to follow the normal procedure to get possession of those properties.
Several of the families came to the dinner and we shared with them the Street of Dreams film. This movie was put together by four CLT communities who are “vintage” CLT’s. If you haven’t seen this film, we encourage you to contact the Citywide CLT Coalition (Aaron Handelsman oversees that convening) conducted by the People’s Platform and arrange for a showing. It will certainly change your block club or local group’s perspective on community development.
The Board of Directors of the Storehouse of Hope, at their Annual Dinner Meeting voted to create the Storehouse of Hope Community Land Trust (SOHCLT). Storehouse of Hope is a 501 C 3 organization which has operated successfully in the North End since 2008, when it was organized as a Client’s Choice Emergency Food Pantry. At its peak, Storehouse of Hope serves nearly 3,000 families annually.
The board also approved the hiring of someone to attend to the work of establishing and building the CLT. We needed someone on board who would be working directly with the families and assisting them with what CLT’s call “Stewardship”. Stewardship refers to being responsible for the families and seeing that the CLT assist them in meeting their needs and causing them to be successful. The “stewardship” element is what creates community. It’s what sets a CLT apart from just selling a house and walking away or in just being a landlord. Penni Johnson, was selected for the position. Penni is the managing member of Purpose Driven Deliverables and is filling the position as an outside contractor position through her company. She had over 10 years with NSO and had worked with the Storehouse of Hope and other local organizations in capacity building work in a grant funded by NSO. Mrs. Johnson’s job is the day to day contact, and support for the families. Her title is Stewardship Administrator.
Well here’s where the work gets started. Each house had to be assessed and intake information had to be gathered on each household. Many of the families were in houses without heat, water and in some cases, no other utilities. As of this writing we have accessed and made essential repairs on five house, four of which had to have furnaces.
Essential repairs, are just that. Getting heat and water to the properties and making sure that the families can get in and out of the houses. A couple of them have had break-ins and so have boarded doors in what they hoped was a secure manner. Most of those “secure” manners would have trapped them in and in case of emergency, they would not have been able to escape. No cosmetic repairs have been done and outside assessments will be done in the spring. We had a family, mother and young daughter sleeping in their car with the engine running to keep warm. We have spent an average of $4,500 per house and we still have five houses to go. And there is the unknown condition of the other five.
Another thing that we have done is thanks to the generous donations of Linda Campbell and Simeon Maycock (Maycock Construction Services), we have received some much needed furniture for the families. That best expresses community. We had families that needed beds and living room furniture and we put out a call and got their needs met.
Certainly, this Blog leaves you with more questions. Much of this we are learning as we go. We can say that the families that are working with us are excited. Repairs they never thought they could get done have been done. The families are serving on a committee with the Storehouse of Hope Board Members to establish the policies and procedures for the CLT. Several of them have been interviewed by a couple of national magazines and while they may not have all the answers they know that it is better to work in community than to stand it alone.
One final thing. We are now organizing our CLT by districts and are planning our first community activity called Rake n’ Run. This is a neighborhood clean-up party and planting scheduled for late April or early May. We will need volunteers. Stay tuned for details.
We are attaching a map, not with the addresses of the properties but with how the properties layout by districts. So we encourage you to support the first CLT in Detroit, pray for the families as you pray for our city and visit our website and stay connected with the People’s Platform. Continue to strive for “equity” for us and know that surviving just isn’t enough.
We are going to thrive and grow.
“And we will build them as at the first.”
Reverend Joan C. Ross
Board Chair, Storehouse of Hope
& Storehouse of Hope Community Land Trust