Community Housing Network Finds Forever Homes for Area Families

The organization settles low-income individuals and families into permanent housing.

What’s better after a long day than finally making it home and being able to kick off your shoes and leave the stress of the world on the other side of your front door? For many among us, though, that front door is not always guaranteed. The nonprofit Community Housing Network employs an arsenal of programs to help those who are homeless, the disabled and anyone in housing crises, from offering information to settling them into affordable homes.

Individuals may be connected with CHN through a social worker, a school liaison or they may call into the organization’s Housing Resource Center, which community relations manager Marylynn Hewitt calls “the hub.” “Everybody who calls the Housing Resource Center, they’re in some kind of a housing challenge, and they all go away with at least a phone number,” she says. “Sometimes they may need help with a utility bill, or sometimes they may be a family of five living in their car.” CHN also deploys PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) teams. In pairs, they go into the community connecting with homeless people at shelters, in parks, abandoned buildings and the like, cultivating relationships. The team may start by offering gloves to combat freezing hands or a pair of boots to develop trust and a willingness to accept help.

One way the organization helps is through its rental program. CHN owns and manages residential communities in Oakland and Macomb counties with adjusted rents meant to be affordable for households earning 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income proportional to the family size. For instance, for the Grafton Townhomes property in Eastpointe, a family of four would be eligible for residence if they bring in between $21,250 and $42,540. Income also determines what they’ll pay in rent. The newest community, Jefferson Oaks, opened late last year in Oak Park in the space that used to be Thomas Jefferson School. Within the former school building are 20 one- and two-bedroom homes, and on the campus are 40 three- and four-bedroom townhomes. Also on site are 21 supportive housing units for those most in need. A coordinator works with these households to help them maintain costs.

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When applications opened for Jefferson Oaks, Hewitt says 2,300 people inquired and 700 people qualified. “It shows the need and really the demand,” she says. UnitedHealthcare invested $14.6 million in the project. Hewitt says, “They were the major funders for this development. UnitedHealthcare came in and put together welcome baskets. They provided people with warm clothes, picture frames, healthy food, kitchen utensils and all kinds of things that help make a house a home,” she adds. “They not only provided the money but made the people who live there feel more welcome.”

Those dreaming of a home of their own are welcomed to take part in CHN’s homeownership program, available to low- and moderate-income households. The firm purchases homes within Oakland and Macomb counties, and in Detroit. “We go in and rehabilitate the home and make them move-in ready, up to date and energy efficient,” Hewitt says. “And then whatever the appraised value of the home is, that’s what it sells for.” A family of four must have an income no less than $34,300 and no greater than $54,900, along with other requirements. CHN also offers home buying assistance to help with closing costs or reducing mortgage payments. Hewitt recalls a family who lived in a home in which the basement flooded and developed mold, to which the landlord did not properly attend. “I was there when she got the keys (to their new home). She walked in and got tears in her eyes. She was so grateful that there was no basement.”

On Feb. 26, CHN will host a Show Me the Money Day in Pontiac. The community is invited to come out and take part in financial education workshops, one-on-one advice from experts and other resources. Hewitt says it’s a useful way “to learn about financial empowerment. It’s important for everyone to know going forward how to make your money work for you and your family,” she says. Hewitt reminds that while we may sometimes find ourselves down on our luck, we’re all deserving of a dignified place to proudly call home. From teachers to nurse’s aides to fast-food managers, she says, “The people who live in our communities are the people who make your communities work.”

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