Change in Muskegon area needs results in Solid Rock Housing Support emerging from Habitat

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By Cynthia Price

It was not lost on the board of the Habitat for Humanity Muskegon County affiliate that there are now a good number of affordable homes in the county.

And though the Habitat model includes both “build[ing] and improv[ing] places to call home,” the emphasis, as most people are aware, has been on building new homes, in order to
increase the “strength, stability and self-reliance” of communities across the nation.

But the local board, chaired by Scott Faith, Minister of Youth and Family Life at St. Mark Lutheran Church, along with Executive Director Andrew Mann and staff were hearing more requests for assistance with renovations and repairs than need for new homes. So they gave it a lot of thought over the last six months and explored what other areas are doing.
The result is the birth of Solid Rock Housing Support.

With a new mission of “Repairing Homes/Refreshing Communities/Renovating Lives, and the tag line “Dedicated to the Preservation of Homes” in full display on the home page of their new website (solid rockhousing.org), the organization will focus on helping homeowners with repairs, training them in basic home maintenance (as well as money management), and assisting them with developing a “housing maintenance checkup” plan.

The Muskegon County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity started in 1985, and had an excellent record of providing, primarily building, affordable housing for Muskegon County residents who needed it – with the stipulation that potential homeowners had to help build.

Solid Rock’s Community Relations Manager Christi Burmeister emphasizes that there is no implied criticism of what Habitat does – far from it.

“We left Habitat on good terms. Habitat has great programming all across the country – we just think that with home repair and rehabbing we’ll be able to make a bigger impact in this particular community,” she said.

The former Habitat ReStores will be re-branded as Solid Rock Depots, and will remain unchanged. As noted in previous Examiners, they are located at 10130 U.S. 31 in Montague, 4345 Airline Road in Norton Shores, and 280 Ottawa Street near downtown Muskegon – and the Solid Rock Housing Support office will remain at the same Ottawa Street location.

In addition, later this year Solid Rock will introduce a lending library of tools. After paying a small membership fee, residents will be able to check out tools they need to keep their housing in good shape.

The repair and rehabbing assistance will require enrollment just as programs did in the past. “We’re still partnering with low to moderate income individuals over 18 who own a home in Muskegon County. As far as what repairs we’ll be able to do, that depends on how much the repairs cost and how that impacts what’s available in the whole fund.  As soon as the person qualifies, our construction team will do an assessment, and we’ll go from there,” Burmeister says.

The enrollment period this year is from February 1 to March 31. As of February 1, there will be a form on the website (see above), or those interested can come to the old/new office at 280 Ottawa St.

Eventually, the website will also include a directory of trade and real estate professionals as well as of housing organizations in Muskegon County; a list of employment opportunities in a variety of trades; a blog with success stories related to Solid Rock’s work; and a calendar of Solid Rock-sponsored activities.

Why the name Solid Rock? As shown in their new logo (below and on page 1), people face a difficult climb to reach their goals (or “the top of one’s ‘life’ mountain” as they put it), and a home is the firm foundation (”rock”) for achieving that climb. Solid Rock Housing Support intends to offer whatever tools are necessary to be sure homeowners can feel secure about their housing and, ultimately,  make it safely to the top.

For more information, to volunteer, or to donate, visit the web site (https://solidrockhousingsupport.org) or call 231-727-6020.

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