Guest Columnist

Affordable Housing Network's efforts continue during pandemic

Two homes on 15th Street SE that were renovated through the AHNI Wellington Heights Initiative in Cedar Rapids Wednesday
Two homes on 15th Street SE that were renovated through the AHNI Wellington Heights Initiative in Cedar Rapids Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

These are trying times. As the world, our nation and state look to combat an invisible virus, the challenges for families in poverty are in full view; job loss, homelessness, mental health problems.

We must look forward. Four Oaks, the Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI), Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association (WHNA) and dozens of community partners have made gains with families — gains we do not want to see diminished.

The Wellington Heights neighborhood has a long, proud history as one of Cedar Rapids’ historic neighborhoods. In recent years, positive developments, like TotalChild have taken place to make the neighborhood stronger.

The TotalChild approach, is an ambitious goal; strengthen families in crisis through direct work and help them acquire permanent housing. While 1447 children in crisis have been helped, 100 properties in Wellington Heights have been rehabilitated. That alone has increased single-family homeownership and improved the quality of properties and the lives of children and families in the neighborhood. Cedar Rapids Police Department statistics also show a 25 percent reduction in crime.

Having now exceeded the initial goal, Four Oaks, AHNI and community partners are planning the next phase of home revitalization. A “Report to the Community Breakfast,” with key collaborators is planned in the fall, where leaders will strategize next steps.

The next phase involves improving an additional 12 to 15 properties over the next five years. This collaboration will remain focused on strengthening the community, making homeownership a possibility for more low/moderate income families, and increasing the growing pride in the neighborhood.

These efforts are not possible without the steadfast support from the City of Cedar Rapids along with the work of community leaders and partnerships. Caring and generous donors, local and regional foundations and community-minded businesses helped Four Oaks raise more than six-million dollars in private donations. Due to the dedication and commitment from everyone involved, Wellington Heights’ proud history as one of Cedar Rapids historic neighborhoods will continue to grow and flourish and our children and families will all benefit.

Hunter Skogman is a member of the board of directors of the Affordable Housing Network, Inc.

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