A new future began Monday (April 6) for Barbara Nelson and her two daughters.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and County Legislator James Tindall, Sr. (2nd District) announced that the Nelsons would be receiving the first home rehabilitated as part of the Jackson County Constructing Futures initiative.
"Thank you," a stunned and sobbing Barbara Nelson said. "Thank you very much."
Jackson County Constructing Futures was launched in November of 2008 to address three key issues: 1) rehabilitating vacant homes that can often become focal points for drug-related crimes; 2) creating job-training opportunities for individuals who had previously been incarcerated; 3) providing housing for homeless families.
Evie Craig, executive director of reStart, which provides shelter and other services for the homeless, asked Nelson and her daughters -- Kyessa, age 12, and DeBorah, 20 -- to be at the Nutter Ivanhoe Neighborhood Community Center for an interview Monday morning. The Nelsons did not know, until Sanders made the official announcement, that they'd already been selected to receive the house.
The Nelsons received a quick guided tour of their new home, located on Wayne Street in Kansas City, from Sanders and Tindall. Then they appeared at the Jackson County Legislative meeting, where Sanders and Barbara signed a letter of intent. Nelson, a home health care aide, dabbed her eyes repeatedly as she signed the papers.
Choking back her tears, she thanked all involved in Jackson County Constructing Futures and hugged Sanders. To a rousing applause, she held up her new house key.
"This program is all about changing lives," said Sanders. "Through this one house alone, we have changed no fewer than nine lives -- not only the lives of Barbara Nelson and her daughters, but also the lives of the men who received crucial job training working on this house."
In pursuing its three goals, Jackson County Constructing Futures brings together numerous governmental, non-profit and private entities -- Connections To Success, a non-profit organization helping formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into the community; the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, which donated the vacant Wayne Avenue house; and Arrowhead Contracting, which repaired the house while providing on-the-job training -- with several branches of Jackson County government, including the COMBAT (Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax) program, the Prosecutor's Drug Court program and the Jackson County Legislature's Housing Resources Commission, which Tindall chairs. Tindall admits he was skeptical when Sanders first presented the Jackson County Constructing Futures concept.
"I didn't believe this could become a reality," he said. "I want to thank Mike Sanders for making this possible. I can see now that dreams can come true."
While the Nelsons now have a home of their own, Sanders and Tindall both stressed that Jackson County Constructing Futures benefits the entire community. A house that had deteriorated badly has now been remodeled and will be occupied. Like the Nelsons, future families receiving homes through the program will be responsible for insuring their properties and paying taxes on them.
"We are turning these homes into productive properties again," Sanders said.
Legislature Dan Tarwater (4th District) noted that "this house is going back on the tax rolls," and Legislative Vice Chair Henry Rizzo (2nd District At-Large) cited the job-training successes of the program with two of the former drug offenders who helped remodel the Wayne Avenue house now employed as construction workers.
Added Tindall, "This is a win-win situation for everyone involved."
County Executive Sanders reiterated that Jackson County Constructing Futures falls within COMBAT's mission through restoring vacant homes that may have been used for criminal activities and through the job training received by the Drug Court offenders employed to do the restoration. "Thousands of dollars" in materials and "thousands of hours of work," Sanders stated, were donated during the course of getting the Wayne Avenue house ready for the family who now calls it home.