DAN SCHUNKS, email@example.com
Home ownership has long been a part of the American dream. But, with wages falling far behind the dramatic increase in home prices, home ownership for a growing portion of the population may seem an unrealistic dream.
News organizations have in recent years been quoting economic experts who observe young, entry-level consumers or propective first-time buyers are unable to save for a down payment due to pay rates, the job market and salary suppression amid inflation. Blemished credit ratings sink dreams of home ownership even further as loans become less attainable.
At Leadwood City Council meetings, the decrease in home ownership has been observed by aldermen and residents, and the lack of new construction and home rehabilitation has been partly blamed for the slowness of the former lead-mining town’s growth, stagnating property values and spotty visual appeal. Some have turned their hopes to government programs, with all the governmental red tape and regulations, while others simply lose hope entirely.
Enter the West County Community Hope Center (WCCHC) located at 206 Church St. in Leadwood, which is a faith-based, nonprofit organization providing religious, educational, and charitable support to families and individuals in the West County School District. The school district includes Leadwood, Irondale, Frankclay, Wortham, Mitchell, and a portion of Terre Du Lac.
According to recent statistics, the rate of West County students qualifying for free and reduced lunches surpasses 60% and an estimated 10% of students are homeless, while 22% of the district lives below the poverty line.
Facing this daunting situation and recognizing the unmet needs of many of Leadwood’s residents, a group of people with ties to the community began to meet in January 2019. Working with the West County Ministerial Alliance, the West County School District, and community leaders, WCCHC has been working to establish and use a holistic approach to impact the lives of the residents of the district.
At the August Leadwood Board of Aldermen meeting, Betty McIntyre spoke on behalf of the WCCHC and their plans to begin addressing the housing needs in the West County area.
McIntyre, a Leadwood native and a career teacher in the West County district, informed the council, they have begun a housing project that will operate similar to Habitat for Humanity, the international Christian housing ministry, but on a smaller scale.
“We have begun the process by purchasing a piece of property on which we will build an ‘anchor home,’” McIntyre said. “The anchor home will be a duplex that houses two families for up to a year, while their ‘hope home’ is being completed.”
The WCCHC plans to buy homes in need of repair and rehabbing, and bring them up to code with volunteer labor.
McIntyre continued, “At that point, the family will move into their hope home, which they will purchase with a loan, after establishing consistent payments and accruing a down payment while they were in the anchor home.”
With the money from the purchase of the hope home, the WCCHC will reinvest the funds into another rehabbing another house for another family, and begin the process again.
The goal of this program is to provide low-income families with housing they can afford to buy for the same amount that they rent, McIntyre said, in hopes home ownership will promote a more stable home life which will benefit school children, businesses, the churches, and the community.
Currently the organization is applying for grants and organizing fund raisers that will help pay for construction of the anchor home and renovate the first hope home. With the sale of the first completed hope home, it is projected the program should be self-sustaining.
The West County Community Hope Center also hosts a variety of programs to help individuals in crisis, all taking place at 206 Church St. in Leadwood.
The first Monday of the month, 5:30-7 p.m., features “Smiles,” a group for single mothers to come together for fellowship and encouragement.
Every Tuesday, the HiSET (GED) test is offered, 6-8 p.m. This class helps individuals earn their high school diploma online with help from an instructor.
Every Wednesday is “First Steps,” 7-9p.m., a Christian-based recovery support group who helps individuals to overcome their addiction.
Every Friday, a Grief Group meets from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The grief group consists of individuals who have experienced loss, coming together to interact with each other to find comfort and hope.
Every Saturday there’s a support group to encourage its members to make better choices and to break the cycle of destructive choices. It’s called Chain Breakers Lunch, and occurs at the center 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
For further information go to the website at wcchopecenter.org