BY JIM HOWE
Three formerly homeless men in Syracuse are grateful to have a house of their own, thanks to a communitywide effort.
“People need a home. People need something to call their own,” one of the men, Ed, told an interviewer when the renovated house was displayed for the public in September.
The small house at 142 Granger St. is adjacent to the Rescue Mission campus, wedged between downtown and the Near West Side. More than a century old and vacant for years, the house had fallen into ruin and been used as a drug den before the Rescue Mission bought it from the nonprofit Greater Syracuse Land Bank and, with the help of the construction firm Hayner Hoyt Corp., the United Way and the Corporate Volunteer Council, embarked on a project to breathe new life into it and the neighborhood.
Among those contributing a total of more than 5,000 volunteer hours was a team of 20 to 25 Upstate Medical University employees and their friends and relatives, who spent two eight-hour days in April and May at the site, according to Kristin Thompson of Upstate’s Marketing and University Communications Department. The Upstate team worked mostly to clean up debris, including construction materials and numerous used hypodermic needles around the site.
The project, part of the Community Build to End Homelessness, funneled donated materials and furnishings as well as volunteer hours to clean, rebuild and furnish the house. A previous Community Build project a few blocks away prepared a home that now houses six residents, and another nearby project will build three tiny houses for homeless female veterans.
Among the requirements to live in the Granger Street house was a stable income, so the residents would pay rent. Neither Ed nor his housemates, Frank and Patrick, have jobs, but each receives small regular disability or other payments, said Carolyn Hendrickson, the project leader for the Rescue Mission, where she is chief development officer. The men asked that their last names not be used.
Their rent is “a tad higher” than what the federal Supplemental Security Income will pay (about $360 per person per month, utilities included) and just about covers the costs of running the house and paying its taxes. The three men are also responsible for keeping their home in good shape, with help on the heavier maintenance from the Mission.
The men had been residents of the Rescue Mission’s emergency shelter at one point, then moved into the Mission’s affordable housing, which gave them a private room and shared cooking facilities.
“This was the next step, to go into something that was more their own,” said Hendrickson. “They were all in agreement that they felt they could really live together.”
Frank, Ed and Patrick can live in the house as long as they wish, provided they keep up with the rent. Each man has his own bedroom on the second floor. The first floor features an eat-in kitchen, laundry room with washer and dryer, full bathroom, half bathroom, living room and dining room. The rooms are small, with sturdy, comfortable furniture and new appliances. Out back is a small deck with a wooden fence for privacy. The house also has central air conditioning and a small attic for storage.
“My housemates and I are very thankful that so many people would come out and restore this house,” Ed said. “It means a great deal to us to have a home.”
This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.