Local “mini home” project moves forward

By Angelica Lavito

Going from homeless to homeowner can seem unachievable. Restoration Urban Ministries is hoping to help make this change more achievable with the creation of “mini homes.”

A groundbreaking ceremony, held on Sept. 10, marked the beginning of construction for Restoration Urban Ministries’s first mini home, a 400-square-foot affordable house for low-income persons.

Restoration Urban Ministries also provides transitional housing for those who are struggling financially. Residents are given temporary food, shelter and childcare, along with services such as self-sufficiency classes and job counseling.

Pastor Ervin Williams, executive director of Restoration Urban Ministries, said the mini home project could help encourage residents, “to be able to have something, to spark that drive to say ‘Look, this isn’t the end of the road. You can continue to progress and get better.’”

Staff encourages transitional housing residents to search for permanent housing, which typically means a rental property. Williams said he has been exploring different ways to encourage residents to eventually pursue purchasing a home and started working on the mini home project nearly two years ago.

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    Assistant Program Director Roscoe Brown and Williams have worked with a variety of people including groups from the University to develop the mini home project.

    “For the last couple of years that’s where we’ve been,” Williams said. “(We’re) really educating the community [and] getting this to the place where we could actually build these.”

    The city of Champaign was looking to sell two irregularly sized vacant lots around the time Restoration Urban Ministries approached Mayor Don Gerard about the project, according to Gerard.

    Because the two lots, located at 410 W. Maple St. and 509 Alabama Ave., were too small for the city to use, Champaign donated the property to Restoration Urban Ministries.

    “Rather than have us mow them, maintain them or whatever, we will sell them off to someone who’s going to put them to good use,” Gerard said.

    Gerard has been working with Restoration Urban Ministries throughout the planning phase and said their passion is what led this project to completion.

    “Pastor Williams, Roscoe and everybody at Restoration and all of the people they work with really put in a lot of time and effort into this,” Gerard said. “They really believe in this, and their passion inspires me to keep momentum going from the city side.”

    According to the Restoration Urban Ministries’s website, mini homes will cost $27,000 with low monthly mortgage payments of $350 to $400 per month.

    For Williams, this marks a milestone in Restoration Urban Ministries’s housing programs.

    “They can have their name on a title and say ‘This is my home,’” Williams said. “It doesn’t matter about the size, but it’s about the ownership and feeling like you’re part of this.”

    Residents of Restoration Urban Ministries’ transitional housing program are required to help out around the facility. The mini homes will be constructed with the help of volunteers.

    Williams said they expect to complete the first house by Nov. 11, and hope to construct upwards of 40 mini homes sometime next year. Once the resident is moved in, Restoration Urban Ministries will continue to offer their services to help him or her adjust.

    “It’s one thing to put the person in the house,” Brown said. “It’s another thing to help him along the way, to help him understand what it means to have a house.”

    Angelica can be reached at [email protected].