Affordable Housing and the Effects on Families and Communities – Part 2

In this post we’d like to talk about about the relation of economic security to affordable housing.

It’s a fact that low-income families that are in a high-cost housing situation are left with little money after those housing expenses. This forces difficult budget decisions that can lead to negative consequences.

Across our country, almost 19 million low-income households spend more than 50% of their income on housing. When that much is spent in that one area there will come a time when other essential needs will be sacrificed. Food, clothing, transportation and health care are costly items that may become unaffordable. Studies have found that an average low-income family with children spent $1,400 per month on all expenses. The families that devoted over half of their income on housing were left with, on average, only $565 to cover monthly expenses. The numbers just don’t add up fo those families and some crucial essentials become victims to the shortfall. And that study is a little dated so you can only imagine the numbers today with increased costs in living.

Researchers have also found that families who do not have enough income left over to cover the remainder of their household budget will have children who experience poorer health outcomes, low levels of engagement in school and the possibility of emotional/mental health issues. These families are more likely to not be able to afford the food they need for healthy, active lifestyles as well.

Yet, affordable housing aids in increasing discretionary income that low-income families will have available to meet these needs and save for their future. An industry report done on families in New York City living in affordable homes, some financed by Low Income Housing Tax Credits, showed that they had double the discretionary income of other families in high-cost housing. This allowed them to buy health insurance, pay off debt, and save for education expenses or a home. These families spent nearly five times as much on health care, a third more on food and twice as much on retirement savings.

It is clear that affordable housing is a solution to the lack of economic security that so many families in our community face. When these families have that economic security it strengthens a community in so many ways. Hope Restorations understands that solution. Transformation is our goal – One Life, One Home, One Neighborhood at a time.

Affordable Housing and The Effects on Families and Communities

It’s an “us” problem, not a “them” problem.

No matter where you are, whether it’s Kinston,NC, or somewhere else in the United States, it is our home and our community in which we live. When a community is affected by a lack of decent, affordable homes for its residents then it only follows that issues will arise in the areas of household stability, economic security, education, health and crime. In the following weeks we will address these particular areas and how affordable housing, one of the goals of Hope Restorations, can impact our community in such a positive way. We cannot solve a problem we don’t understand and educating ourselves to reach a common goal is the power we need to accomplish that.

Let’s start with household stability.

Nationally, nearly 19 million households right here in our backyards spend over half of their income on housing. These are families, single parents and seniors. Hundreds of thousands more are without a home at all. These are the people that, given access to affordable housing, would benefit in having that critical stability and be less vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of crime, lack of education and neglected health concerns. Those numbers are nationwide, but imagine just starting right here at home and the impact on our community of addressing this issue.

Picture over 11 million low-income renter households and 8 million low-income homeowner households that pay more than 50% of their income on housing costs. Rents, mortgages, skyrocketing utilities. And that’s a best number, possibly underestimated, as it’s tough to get exact numbers on housing instability when you factor in missed rent payments, involuntary moves or extended families living together because it’s too much to live on their own. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development states that the majority of our country’s households in jeopardy are low-income. These are our fixed income seniors, our child-care providers, our retail sales people, cooks, custodians, cashiers, medical aides, teachers and teacher’s assistants. You get the idea. The people we need that do the work that keeps our community running are those being affected.

This is a number I found from 2010 (picture how much this has increased since then). In 2010 the US had 5.1 million more low-income renters than affordable units to house them. That’s a shortfall greater than the entire Boston metro area population!

So, what is this “stability” thing?

Well, one huge effect housing stability has is in creating a stable environment for children by reducing frequent moves or homelessness. Our children are the future of our communities. How many of these children are more susceptible to crime, drugs and physical/mental health issues when they don’t have stable homes? We’ve all heard the statistics on that. Research shows that those low-income families that receive affordable housing are less at risk and over 74% were less likely to end up on the street or in a shelter. Studies have also shown that homeless families who were taken off the streets, or out of shelters, and placed into affordable housing are living more stable and higher quality lives in safer environments. They are also less likely to return to their previous conditions.

This is the beauty of Hope Restorations!

In Hope Restorations you have a group of adults, most of whom identify with exactly these circumstances we’ve discussed, that are the ones using their God-given talents, time, energy and caring to create these affordable home situations and turn this around right here in our community. They are people who have made mistakes, committed crimes and paid the price through incarceration, but have found a better way through God and faith. Who better to understand the need for change? Not only are these folks making our community better through their own personal rehabilitation, but they are sharing it with others in the hopes of spreading their new found way of living for a higher purpose. There is a beautiful thing happening when those who have travelled the wrong path are now building a better path for those who may have followed suit if not for these efforts of those who have gone before them. These are our fathers, brothers, sons. Our mothers, sisters and daughters. They are our friends turning their lives around to turn their community around. That first stone has to be cast into a pond to create the far-reaching ripples throughout. Hope Restorations is casting that stone. This is the “us” in it all.

Next time we will cover affordable housing and how it relates to economic security.



An old house hopes to create new lives

Larry Miller will never forget the conversation he had with a fellow inmate during his 13-month sentence.

Miller was released from prison on May 23 of this year after serving time for a felony hit and run. He questioned how he was going to take care of his wife, three kids and two grandchildren without his former lucrative job at Pitt Electric in Greenville.

He remembered the conversation.

“A friend told me while we were incarcerated about Hope Restorations,” Miller said.

The 46-year-old got out of prison on a Thursday and found employment as an electrician for Hope Restorations, Inc. the next Tuesday. Miller currently assists with renovating the House of Hope – that will one day help men just like Miller.

“My wife was struggling the whole 13 months,” Miller said.

“This job is a blessing to me. With my criminal background, it’s good when someone gives you a second chance.”

Hope Restorations officially formed in January of 2016 when the non-profit organization’s crew of men recovering from addiction successfully renovated a house on 1201 Sycamore Road in Kinston. Hope Restorations has continued to provide home renovation jobs for those men recovering from addictions or who were incarcerated.

Just weeks before Miller was released from prison, Hope Restorations received a two-story house that has provided employment for Miller and will one day assist 20 men at a time through recovery while they live there.

The House of Hope, located at 611 Mitchell St., is a ministry of Hope Restorations – and was once the Flynn Home. Chris Jenkins, executive director of Hope Restorations, said the Flynn Home closed in April of this year due to the extensive upkeep of the 103-year-old historic house.

Flynn Home directors donated the house to Hope Restorations after serving men with substance abuse issues since 1969, according to Annette Lapas. Lapas, former president of the Flynn Home board of directors, said the board donated the house to Jenkins because of the physical care Hope Restorations could place on the historic home through renovations. She added that the Flynn Home board received the house as a donation as well 50 years ago from a prominent Kinston family.

“Chris has a great operation,” Lapas said. “They would be able to serve those clients and preserve the home.

“The house is an asset to the community.”

Jenkins said the Flynn Home intended to serve as a halfway house but eventually became a boarding home. The House of Hope intends to provide 20 men at a time with an 18-week program of four phases that will transition them from rehab or incarceration to independence through recovery, education, employment and mental health services.

Jenkins said Hope Restorations currently has 15 men renovating homes, and he said the program has over a 60 percent success rate of positive outcomes from the men.

“It is very exciting,” Jenkins said. “We believe it will make our program even better.”

Currently under renovation, the House of Hope will offer four large rooms with five twin beds in each room upstairs, and lockers will be placed in the wide hallways outside the men’s bedrooms. They will live there for eight to 12 weeks and then “move out,” according to Jenkins.

The first phase includes pre-employment training directly out of rehab, detox, incarceration, or as an alternative to incarceration with no compensation. The second phase, while the men live at the House of Hope for eight to 12 weeks, offers paid construction work with Hope Restorations or elsewhere. Jenkins said the men working on large projects must have a “greater attention to detail.”

“If someone cuts a board wrong, they’ll cut another one and caulk will fix it,” he said. “But if it’s a $20,000 deck, it better be in top shape.”

The third phase lasts eight months, and the men will transition to a smaller house with increased independence and will seek employment outside of Hope Restorations if desired. Jenkins said the men will also receive career readiness training from Lenoir Community College onsite to eventually gain their certificates. Jenkins said the men will also receive mental health services from PORT Health.

The fourth phase will prepare the men to graduate from the program and move out of the House of Hope. The men must save for deposits during this phase and find employment and transportation.

“I say, ‘you can tolerate anything for 18 weeks,’” Jenkins said.

The House of Hope is somewhat empty at this time with a few volunteers or employees working at desks on the first floor. The rest of the first floor holds sheets of plywood, saw horses, ladders, paint cans and other tools. The second floor looks the same with empty bedrooms for the potential 20 men to reside.

Jenkins was unable to give a definite time of when the House of Hope will begin to operate with the 20 men.

“Who is going to pay for them to live here?,” he asked.

Jenkins said Hope Restorations is looking for funding from public safety and human service organizations. He said the program needs money for utilities, clothing and beds for the men. He said 20 beds – built by Hope Restorations – will cost $500 each, and that’s not including nightstands, mattresses and lockers.

Though the House of Hope has no tenants at this time, Miller and other men with Hope Restorations are creating better lives by creating a home for those just like them.

“We want to help turn a man’s life around by changing his attitude,” Jenkins said. “We want to instill better ideas so they don’t go back to their old friends – and don’t go back to jail.”

Copyright 2019

For complete coverage, click here.