Chris Jenkins’ Story

Duke Divinity School’s 2019 Convocation & Pastors’ School focused on “Life That Really Is Life: Cultivating Thriving Communities.” Watch this story illustrating how when congregations and pastors focus on God’s dreams, they can draw people together across diverse sectors, generations, and neighborhoods to encourage thriving communities and pursue what 1 Timothy 6:19 calls “the life that really is life.”

https://youtu.be/viGRqOZgf-A

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 Kinston.com 2019

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Lenoir/Greene United Way welcomes new partner agency

Lenoir/Greene United Way recently announced Hope Restorations, Inc. is a partner agency for 2019.

Hope Restorations has acquired the property formerly known as the Flynn Christian Home and will be operating its “House of Hope” ministry at the facility. The House of Hope will be continuing the grant awarded to the Flynn Christian Home to provide housing to men in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.

“We are excited to work with Chris Jenkins and his team at Hope Restorations,” UW Executive Director Molly Floyd said. “We applaud their efforts to honor the mission of the Flynn Christian Home and the many services they are providing our community.”

Jenkins is Hope Restorations’ executive pastor.

“We’re excited about carrying on the rich tradition of this house,” he said. “It’s a tradition of selflessly helping men transition back into healthy, happy lives.”

Jenkins added the house will allow them to implement improvements to their program.

“We will incorporate a program using phases,” he said. “The early phases will be highly structured and supervised, with subsequent phases progressing toward more independent living,”

All Hope Restorations participants are required to continue looking for better paying, permanent employment or to be engaged in a formal educational program.

“Having our early-phase participants in one residential setting will greatly enhance our partnership with Lenoir Community College, since we’ll be able to offer GED and career readiness courses on site,” Jenkins said.

For more information, please visit www.lenoirgreeneunitedway.org or www.hoperesorationsnc.org. You may also visit both nonprofit organizations on Facebook.

Copyright Neuse News 2019

To watch video and for complete coverage, click here. 

United Way partnership will allow Hope Restoration to provide housing for men in recovery

Lenoir/Greene United Way announced that Hope Restorations, Inc. is a partner agency for 2019.

Hope Restorations has acquired the property formerly known as the Flynn Christian Home and will be operating its “House of Hope” ministry at the facility. The House of Hope will be continuing the grant awarded to the Flynn Christian Home to provide housing to men in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.

“We are excited to work with Chris Jenkins and his team at Hope Restorations. We applaud their efforts to honor the mission of the Flynn Christian Home and the many services they are providing our community,” said Molly Taylor, executive director of Lenoir/Greene United Way in a news release.

“We’re excited about carrying on the rich tradition of this house,” says Hope Restorations’ executive pastor, Chris Jenkins, “It’s a tradition of selflessly helping men transition back into healthy, happy lives.”

Jenkins added that the house will allow them to implement improvements to their program.

“We will incorporate a program using phases. The early phases will be highly structured and supervised, with subsequent phases progressing toward more independent living,” All Hope Restorations participants are required to continue looking for better paying, permanent employment or to be engaged in a formal educational program. Jenkins adds, “Having our early-phase participants in one residential setting will greatly enhance our partnership with Lenoir Community College, since we’ll be able to offer G.E.D. and career readiness courses on site.”

For more information, please visit www.lenoirgreeneunitedway.org or www.hoperesorationsnc.org

Copyright Kinston Free Press 2019

To watch video and for complete coverage, click here. 

Nonprofit home in Kinston helping turn lives around

KINSTON, NC (WITN) People recovering from addiction or coming out of incarceration often have nowhere to go when trying to turn their life around, but a local nonprofit has a new project to change that.

Greg Dunk says he had 15 years of addiction struggles with alcohol and heroin and made several attempts at recovery.

Following his final stint in rehab 4-years ago, he was then pointed to Hope Restorations in Kinston, or as he refers to it just “hope.”

Dunk says, “Hope has given me an opportunity to get back into society again.”

Hope Restorations Pastor Chris Jenkins says, “One of the problems with recovering from addiction is that they’ve made a decision to turn your life around, and often times have nowhere to go but back to the very same community where they got their life messed up in the first place.”

Now recovering addicts, as well as people leaving incarceration, will go to the new Hope Restorations home.

Twenty people at a time will spend three months living there, as Hope Restorations also employs them to do construction on homes for low income families.

Jenkins says, “It makes a huge difference. Almost immediately when someone comes into our program and starts working, they recognize that they have something valuable to offer to the community.”

Dunk says, “It helps me because I give back. A lot of the new guys that come in here, I mentor them, I talk to them, and let them know I’ve been through a lot of the same things, and that helps”

The Hope Restorations Home has a tentative opening date of May 1st, but that is contingent on funding.

The project costs about $30,000.

House of Hope to open soon in Kinston

A Kinston non-profit has plans to begin operating a House of Hope in the near future.

The house would be located at 611 Mitchell Street, formerly known as the Flynn Home. Hope Restorations provides paid employment, training and support to adults recovering from addiction or incarceration in the form of construction. The group takes houses in declining neighborhoods and restores them and the people participating in the program.

“We could only hire in-help people who lived nearby and already had somewhere to live,” said Pastor Chris Jenkins, executive director of Hope Restorations. “This will allow us now, we can help people coming out of rehab or anyone coming out of prison centers could get the benefit of not only our educational and employment program but have a safe place to live.”

The non-profit Flynn Home Ministry has provided housing for men for years.

Copyright WCTI12 2019

To watch video and for complete coverage, click here. 

Local non-profit restores hope to community, partners with Church

KINSTON, Lenoir County – Four years ago, Chris Jenkins, the founder of Hope Restorations, lost his son to suicide.

He battled an addiction with prescription pain pills. While dealing with the loss, Jenkins needed something to keep him busy.

“I just really needed something meaningful and productive to do,” said Jenkins.

That’s how Hope Restorations began.

The non-profit, based out of Kinston, rebuilds beaten down homes, and works with members of the community to rebuild lives as well.

“Our very first house was one that needed to be bull dozed over, but as one of our guys said, we actually brought that house back to life and in doing so we’re bringing these guys back to life,” said Tim Chase, Project Coordinator for Hope Restorations.

So far the organization has rebuilt 6 homes, and owns over two dozen properties. As they continue to grow, they need more space.

That’s where Queen Street Memorial Church comes in.

Through a partnership with the church, Hope Restorations now has office space to be able to get paperwork done, apply for grants, and meet with clients.

The goal for Hope Restorations is to rebuild 45 homes by the year 2020. If they meet that goal, they will be able to sustain themselves as a non-profit and no longer rely on grant money.

To watch video and for complete coverage, click here. 

Lending a helping hand

A prison sentence doesn’t always end when a person is released. Offenders often face an uphill battle when it comes to finding housing and employment, often to the detriment to themselves and others.

A 2008 study by the Urban Institute revealed that eight months after being released from prison, barely more than half of surveyed felons were employed. Felon or no, that many out of work adults can have as much as a $67 billion impact on the U.S. Economy, according to a 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Some of the difficulty in finding employment after prison comes in a variety of ways. People coming out of prison often have long gaps in their work history, low education and literacy rates. A lack of housing and transportation also create issues. The title of convicted felon also brings some baggage to the table. In an effort to make job finding easier for some felons, nine states have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers; 29 others have adopted measures that delay inquiries about convictions until later in the employment process to better give ex-offenders a chance to get hired based on their merits.

In Kinston, one organization actually uses that box to figure out exactly who to hire.

“The ones working with us are the ones are really good deep down. They want to be good parents to their children, they want to be good spouses to their mate, they want to be productive members of society and they, because of previous mistakes have just got themselves trapped,” said Chris Jenkins, founder of Hope Restorations. “Nobody will give them a shot.”

Nobody, except Jenkins.

Hope Restorations is a 501 c(3) nonprofit that aims to provide employment, training and support to adults recovering from addiction or recently released from incarceration.

Hope Restorations was officially founded in 2015, but the concept dates back to 2013. After losing his son to a combination of mental illness and substance abuse, Jenkins said he bought a house near Rochelle Middle School to restore as a way to keep himself busy on his days off.

While working on that house he met two men who were out of work and in need of work so he gave them a job working on the house.

“They needed a good honest way to feed their families. So I put those two men together in that house and I worked with them on my day off but the rest of the week let them work basically unsupervised,” he said.

Collectively the three men replaced the siding, roof, heating and air conditioning and added insulation to the house. It was then rented to a low-income family.

After that house was completed, Jenkins mortgaged it to buy another and set to work on that.

“I still needed that creative outlet and something to do and I had seen so many great benefits from me doing those houses. It was helping the communities, it was a family a good place to live, I was giving employment to folks that were otherwise hard to employ and I didn’t want to give that up,” he said.

Two years later, after some meetings with what would become the board of directors for Hope Restorations and some brainstorming, Hope Restorations was formed. The organization has begun taking properties that are in need of repair and renovating them.

The organization currently owns about 24 houses, most of which are being rented while the others are being worked on.

“There’s lots of these houses in Kinston that are abandoned or in such disrepair that are owned by people doing just enough upkeep to keep them rented. There’s lots that are abandoned, lots that are just starting to deteriorate because they’ve been inherited maybe by someone who has moved away from Kinston and they don’t have any desire to spend any money to fix it and then contract a real estate agent who is going to take a percent of the money they make on it,” Jenkins said.

Some of those houses ended up being donated to Hope Restorations, the rest the organization has bought outright using grant money.

Jenkins wants to see the number of houses managed by Hope Restorations to reach 45 in the future. At that point, the organization would become self-sustaining and be able to purchase all of it’s materials and equipment without relying on grants or donations.

For the men working inside the homes owned by Hope Restorations, the chance to get to work is a valuable one. The organization only has enough money to keep about 15 people on payroll at one time and has a waiting list for new hires.

Employees are overseen by volunteers with experience in electrical, HVAC, plumbing and other types of work on job sites. For those who find they enjoy the type of work they do for Hope Restorations, Jenkins wants to help find education and certification programs to help them be more marketable in specialized fields.

Rather than provide long term employment, the goal of the program is to give ex-offenders a chance to learn new skills and prove to other potential employers they can be reliable.

After an ex-offender leaves Hope Restorations to find a new job, Jenkins said he is happy to serve as a reference for them, but his reviews will be “brutally honest” with employers.

“I’m happy to tell an employer that this person is a good worker, he is ready for that chance, but I’m also willing to say this person isn’t quite ready yet,” he said.

Jenkins said his honesty is more about making sure employers know that when a new hire comes from Hope Restorations, they’ve proven they can work.

For Jacob Fleming, who has been with Hope Restorations for the last six months, the opportunity has been an enlightening one. Fleming was told about Hope Restorations by his parole officer the week after he got out of prison, and was excited to have a job.

“That was my number one most important task to accomplish. Get a job, two if possible, come home and stay out of trouble,” he said.

While working with Hope Restorations Fleming said he has discovered that he enjoys working on electrical systems, and wants to become a certified electrician.

“It means a lot to me. When you in a certain situation, it feels like everyone is against you, but it seems like this company just sees the good or the potential in you.”

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