Kimi went in expecting to find some good wood, maybe some useful cabinets, possibly a piece or two of original trim, but what Kimi found blew her mind. “We have to save it!" Kimi said in awe as she wondered around this pristine example of a 1920’s craftsman's house. “It was stunning, to say the least.”
When our board and staff attempt to identify the reason why Community enCompass exists, we end up with phrases like “Neighborhood Transformation,” and “SHALOM in the City.” Lofty dreams for a rag-tag team of people who are often stumbling towards good. The year-end process of digging through data always makes me wonder..... how will we know once we’ve arrived? How will we know when our neighborhoods have been transformed and we taste SHALOM?
Dozens of neighborhood teenagers spent their summers doing internships through the Youth Empowerment Project. The PAID internships created an opportunity of high school students to gain experience in the fields of youth work, agriculture, construction, and gardening, building interpersonal skills and developing their resumes
Nina has bounced from house to house for over a decade, taking the initiative and engaged the services provided by almost every social service organization in the City---food assistance, substance abuse programs, parenting classes. She’s rented a place before, but the rent was higher than what she could afford—sometimes 70% of her total income, and she always ended up evicted.
This summer, hundreds of volunteers have already partnered with our neighbors to invest time, money and effort along 5th and 6th Streets from Houston Avenue south into Muskegon Heights. The project activities have provided effects similar to that of a facelift, rejuvenating the existing physical built environment of our core city neighborhoods. These activities are lifting the spirits of those living in these neighborhoods as well, and allowing neighbors to show-off their amazing gifts of hospitality!
“When we look at a house like this we see history, we see story, we see family, we see value and hope. We see good bones.” A house like this makes no sense to any real estate investor. It’s not a house you can flip for profit. The current real estate values in Muskegon's core city neighborhoods don’t make a house like this profitable in any way. It took close to $60,000 in materials and necessary contracted work to bring this house back to life, and that's not accounting for the countless hours of volunteer work that have been put in.
15% of Muskegon County residents have a certified disability, 25% higher than the national average. 41% of Muskegon county residents live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty level, 22%* higher than national average. These numbers alone are sobering, so this month we are taking the opportunity to educate ourselves about the links between poverty and health, health and poverty.
Redlining is the historical practice of denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas. Redlining in Muskegon resulted in some neighborhoods being underdeveloped, buildings being abandoned, businesses failing, increasing social problems and the removal of any incentives to invest.
Phew: What a summer! So much work has been done. One of the highlights this summer has been our “4th Street Facelift” Project. Community enCompass was 1 of 10 organizations across the state to be awarded a $50,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for neighborhood enhancement projects. Competition was hot with 36 projects across the state applying, and the grant was a catalyst for neighborhood organizing in a powerful way.
The former Roosevelt school has been newly renovated into new, high-quality one and two bedroom apartment homes. The community boasts large, beautifully lit, spacious living and common areas, with touches of the buildings school-roots running throughout. Restoration offers a community garden, playground, and large living and community spaces with tons of natural light.
Applications can be picked up at Community enCompass' office. Applications can be picked at the reception window during the following hours:
Monday 9AM to 1PM
Tuesday 9AM to 1PM
Wednesday 9AM to 1PM
Your application CANNOT be returned if you do not have ALL of the following items:
Social Security cards fro ALL household members.
Birth certificates for ALL household member.
Proof of income.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to come to the office and speak with our receptionist.
Many owners and renters have called this house home over the past 104 years. First in 1912 were the Rexford’s: William, his wife Edna and their daughter Ruth. Mr. Rexford was a conductor for the railroad, his wife a clerk and daughter a student. They lived here for 10 years before selling the house to Frederick A. Bailey. Bailey was a teacher at the Hackley Manual Training School and lived here for 40 years. During that time he had two spouses, Florence and May, and also became a teacher at Central Junior High School. In 1962 Robert M. Juntunen bought the house and five years later in 1967 William I. Coleman, a salesman for World Book Encyclopedia bought the house. He lived here with his wife. They enjoyed the house for 27 years while William worked as a custodian for Mona Shores Schools and later Coleman Insulation. In 1994 Joseph J. and Charity S. Zimmerman bought the property and it seems to have been a rental for several years. Then between 2006 and 2014 Heather Beagle, Melissa Tyler, Andrew Willet were owners and residents of the house at various times. And then the house fell into foreclosure.
When Sarah and Rehab Specialist Kimi George toured the house and saw its hidden beauty and possibilities they decided that it was redeemable. So early in 2016 Kimi began identifying the needs, creating a plan and pulling together the rehab team. For most of the year Kimi along with volunteers from the community, Community enCompass’ Youth Empowerment Program, West Michigan Works, Pay it Forward and other organizations, various subcontractors and members of Muskegon First Wesleyan Church transformed the house beyond its former beauty. New siding, new front steps, paint, new upstairs laundry and bathroom, refurbished kitchen with new cupboards and appliances and many other changes were needed to update the house. During the rehab a young family that had attended Community enCompass’ 2015 Taste and See was invited to visit the Ransom property. They had decided that they wanted to live in the neighborhood and fell in love with the house. So the neighbors are now welcoming Jeremy and Brittany Lenertz and their two daughters Elise and Celia to the neighborhood. It is truly a story of redemption accomplished by love and hope and hard work.
As Christ’s light scatters the darkness in our lives, it comes into this home to bless those who will dwell here. The prophet Isaiah says, “let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Jesus says, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” As you hear these words may you be blessed with peace and joy and faith and love as you enjoy this beautifully redeemed house for many, many years.
May you welcome family, friends, neighbors and strangers through its door.
Written by Karen Eichelberger
The cost of health is a conversation that comes up regularly with our neighbors. The cost of health care can cripple a family. Even when wise health decisions are made, exercise is frequent and diet is healthy, the “unforeseen” can blow a hole into anyone's reality. Highly publicized social media campaigns among other things have been utilized and supported, just to help people cover the cost of being well again.
For Shawn the “unforeseen” was a large beautifully ornate piece of furniture, which ended up taking 3 years out of her life. “I was hauling a big book case, like the ones in a lawyer's office, with 3 other men. One of the guys dropped his corner, and I tried to compensate for it. It felt like I had pulled a muscle, so I thought, ‘It’s Friday….Whatever, I’ll just grab some Tylenol,’ and I went home.” That pulled muscle turned out to be a crushed disk in her neck and a pinched nerve. She lost all feeling in her right hand and arm. It was fixable, but she would be out of work for months.
Shawn was working for an antiques restoration shop, a small company with only a handful of employees. When she spoke with her employer about health coverage after the accident, she was told that because she did not fill out an accident report form the day of the accident, the accident didn’t happened within work hours, and they were, therefore, not obliged to help cover the cost. None of her colleagues were willing to risk their jobs to vouch for her, so she had to take her employer to court, just so she could keep paying the bills.
Months later, after enduring torrents of verbal abuse from her ex-employer, the judge ruled in favour of Shawn. Shawn had the forethought to record all conversations she had on the phone with her ex-employer, including the abuse. The judge ruled that either the employer paid Shawn worker’s compensation, or he would face legal charges of harassment and abuse, charges he would lose too. He chose the worker’s compensation.
The whole situation left a bad taste in Shawn’s mouth: She had been ostracized by other employers in the area and couldn't find work. But she had to keep paying the bills. So Shawn and her young daughter moved to Muskegon for better opportunities.
To make the situation worse another “unforeseen” hit. After Shawn’s first surgery the doctor told her that they had found evidence of a degenerative bone condition in her spine. Unfortunately the condition is hereditary: her brothers, mother, and grandpa all have it. Her vertebrae are compacting down, literally crumbling away. Since discovering it, Shawn has had two more surgeries fixing some of her vertebrae, but ultimately there is no cure. She can have other surgeries, but the main deterrent is physiotherapy, exercise, and pain management for the rest of her life. And that's not cheap especially when there's no money coming in, so Shawn signed up for Medicaid.
Unable to find work, with worker’s comp running out and bills piling up, Shawn finally had to claim disability benefits. They pointed her in the direction of a local veterans housing facility. Shawn had served in the 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard as an oboe player. She had signed up with her parents permission right out of 11th grade, and was honorably discharged months before the 126th was set to deploy to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm as medics in 1990.
“I jokingly say, ‘I defended Michigan with my oboe: STAND BACK, or I will play!’” It was this experience that qualified her for the free non-permanent, dorm room apartments. It was better than nothing, but after the allotted time, Shawn and her 11-year-old daughter were out on the street. With no place to go and no money for rent, they ended up in the Muskegon Rescue Mission.
Shawn didn’t want to be there. “It was really bad for us,” Shawn recalls. Shawn was breaking the rules, smuggling food in for her daughter who would cry herself to sleep at night due to hunger. “At some point I just realized, ‘‘I need to get out of here!’ My daughter was losing tons of weight, she was being really quiet and was intimidated by the other women there.”
It was around this time that Shawn came across Community enCompass, quite by accident. She had seen signs for the Learning Lab, a computer room at Community enCompass open to the community where people can find help with job applications and resumes among other things, and she wandered in. It was here she overheard conversations about military housing assistance. Shawn was told that Community enCompass had resources to support female veterans with families. Two years later Shawn shares a two-bedroom bungalow with her daughter, who is in high school. Shawn pays part of the rent, and Community enCompass pays the rest. Through the help of West Michigan Works, Shawn found work with Pioneer Resources, providing care for people with physical and mental disabilities. Shawn enjoys her work. The physicality of it keeps her active, which helps with her spinal condition, and the work is flexible. She works part time so she can continue attending her physical therapy sessions.
Between Shawn's initial accident with an ornate bookcase and her finding her job with Pioneer Resources, Shawn was unemployed for three and a half years. As she looks back over the years of struggle, she is thankful. “It is definitely a blessing: my church, my family, and Community enCompass. I don't know where we would be without them. They are a strong part of what has gotten us this far.”
“Unforeseen” things can push anyone over the edge into poverty, vulnerable housing, or even homelessness. Accidents, medical conditions, the insensitivity of others, can all pile up on top of each other until everything breaks down. At Community enCompass, we encounter neighbors whose realities have been swallowed by their struggles to survive. We make it our business to walk alongside neighbors so that they are able to do more than survive. Shawn and her daughter have incredible gifts to share with society, and she is in a place now where she can offer them up. We are so proud to call Shawn neighbor, and look forward to seeing how her gifts add value to our community!