My name is Jason Vestweber and I sit on the board for Willis Dady, ASAC, and Way Point here in Cedar Rapids. In those capacities I have been afforded the opportunity to witness, firsthand, the tremendous good each of these organizations brings to our communities. One of the most surprising to me was Willis Dady.
From my earliest days of engagement with the organization I have to admit to a level of ignorance on the topic of homelessness. I think I can empathize with most hardworking Cedar Rapids community members when it comes to the “stigma” associated with homelessness. If your only exposure to homelessness is of people residing under bridges, or the TV persona for what homelessness looks like, than you have no idea what the face of homelessness is in Cedar Rapids. Homelessness in our community has the faces of veterans who have served their country. Small children with single mothers who have lost a loved one and elderly who have fallen on difficult times. Organizations like Crestwood Ridge and the associations they build with organizations like Willis Dady create the fabric of this community and the very essence of what makes all of us love Cedar Rapids so much. These organizations exist to “remove” homelessness from our streets and neighborhoods. These organizations are rooted in lifting people up, getting them out of the cycle, and helping them get to a place where they too can live the American dream of homeownership. If you have in your mind that Crestwood Ridge is building the Cedar Rapids version of the Southside Chicago slum, you are woefully uneducated in what they do and how they benefit the communities in which they build.
As a licensed Realtor in Cedar Rapids I work with housing issues and concerns every day. I also own several residential homes as rental properties here in Cedar Rapids and am a registered landlord with Linn Co. Speaking as a landlord, and business owner, I wish the very few neighbors surrounding this location would open their minds, hearts, and ears to what a great thing this really is for the location, the land, and our community. If I owned a home in this area, and were faced with this land being used in the way Crestwood Ridge has purposed vs. it becoming something of a commercial nature, I know Crestwood Ridge would be my first choice. This facility would be well run, well cared for, and well maintained. You won’t get that promise from every developer. With the additional involvement of a great organization like Willis Dady, you benefit further from a much more hands on approach and additional eyes on the property. It will be a great addition to the neighborhood and an upscale improvement from the vacant land in its current state. I implore city officials to hear the silent majority and try to temper the vocal minority in this case. If more people from our city would engage in this discussion I believe the overwhelming majority would see this proposal as a huge positive and a wonderful opportunity for the NW side and this location. I sincerely feel the loudest voices in this discussion will look back one day and wonder why they spoke out so harshly against such a positive initiative.
• Jason Vestweber is a Realtor in Cedar Rapids.