Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Pastors Improve Housing Through Rehab Projects

 While bulldozing apartment buildings in some neighborhoods is part of San Bernardino’s economic revitalization strategy, there are many single-family homes in the city that simply need rehabilitation. One of the organizations helping with the rehabilitation of these homes is the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, through its Community  Development Department, which was founded by Pastor Raymond Turner, second from left. Pastor Turner’s organization is supported by the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency (represented here by Housing & Community Development Director Carey Jenkins) and the City of San Bernardino (represented here by Mayor Patrick Morris), and state leaders such as Sheila Futch, senior field representative to Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, are also enthusiastic about the effort. Photo by Yee-Kong Yang
(San Bernardino, Calif.) Families of four making up to $78,000 a year can afford their own homes through a partnership of the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency and the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches.

“We rehabilitate vacant foreclosed homes in the City of San Bernardino, and then sell them to buyers who will live in the homes,” said Pastor Raymond Turner, co-founder and past president of the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches.

For San Bernardino and the rest of the Inland Empire, the definition of low-income for a family of four is less than $52,100 a year, and for moderate income, up to $78,000. Families with more than four members would be allowed to make even more, while individuals and families of less than four people qualify with lower incomes.

These definitions are based on the average household incomes of the entire population of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Anyone who wants to find out the income limitations for their specific family size should contact the NID Housing Counseling Agency at (909) 888-8700 and ask for Linda Jackson, or the Neighborhood Housing Service of the Inland Empire, Inc. at (909) 884-6891.

With financial help from the Economic Development Agency, the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches is able to put its Community Development Department’s building expertise into renovations that turn forlorn houses into highly desirable places to live.

“We don’t just paint and patch,” Pastor Turner said. “Our first project, which is nearly finished, is an older home in like-new condition. We want the houses we rehabilitate to be the best house on their block. That way, we can improve the City of San Bernardino’s property values, and in doing so, make our community a better place.”

The nearly finished renovation project is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath house on Virginia Street, near Community Hospital of San Bernardino. The Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches has replaced the roof, walls, floor coverings and electrical systems, installed new kitchen and bathroom fixtures and new kitchen cabinets, erected a new fence around the yard, and planted new landscaping.

“We’re looking forward to selling that house and beginning the process of revitalizing our neighborhoods,” Pastor Turner said. “In all, we plan to work with the Economic Development Agency to rehabilitate as many houses as we can. Our goal is to grow our organization and capacity to rehab as many houses as the city can allocate.”

The project manager is Pastor Owosu Hodari, who is also the senior pastor of Predestined In Christ Ministries, but previously worked for 20 years in construction and project management.

Joining him are others in the member churches with certified construction experience. The group is also developing a training program in construction for young adults ages 18-26, and those people will receive skills training by working on these foreclosed homes.

Rehabilitating foreclosed homes is the latest of many service projects the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches has developed to improve the community since its formation in 2000. Others include:

·     An annual health fair focusing on health problems of African-Americans
·     The “Pastors on the Premise” program at Arroyo, San Bernardino, Cajon and Pacific high schools, in which pastors visit the campuses to encourage and mentor children. The program has reduced violence on these campuses, and others where the pastors previously established a presence
·     The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer breakfast
·     The Community Plea Program, in which the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches works with San Bernardino County District Attorney and Public Defender offices to work out pleas for misdemeanors and minor infractions, whereby the offender may perform community service in lieu of jail time or fines.

In all, the agency is allocating $3.7 million of Neighborhood Stabilization funds to empower agency-approved companies like the Inland Empire Concerned African-American Churches to purchase and rehabilitate a portion of about 5,000 foreclosed properties in San Bernardino.

“There are not enough locally-based developers with the experience and the ability to rehabilitate the large number of foreclosures we have in this city” said Carey Jenkins, director of Housing and Community Development for the Economic Development Agency. “There are several community development corporations in the city. We want to work with them to help increase their internal capacity to help revitalize our neighborhoods.”

The San Bernardino Economic Development Agency’s Neighborhood Stabilization program is also working with other entities besides Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches. These companies have been retained through a Request for Proposals/Qualifications (“RFP”) process and are checked by agency staff and approved by the City Council. The others are community development corporations, builders, developers and contractors.

Upon rehabilitation, the homes will be made available for purchase to qualifying households who make less than $78,000 a year for a family of four (120 percent of the Area Median Income adjusted for family size).  Expected home sales prices are from $75,000 to $250,000.

Buyers can also use the agency’s Homeowners Down Payment Assistance Program, which provides up to a 10 percent down payment for those who qualify. For a $100,000 home that would be up to $10,000 to help purchase the home.

To purchase one of the homes rehabilitated with Neighborhood Stabilization funds, or take advantage of the Homeowners Down Payment Assistance Program to help with the purchase of many San Bernardino homes, buyers must attend Homebuyer Education courses offered monthly by the NID-Housing Counseling Agency, or the Neighborhood Housing Service of the Inland Empire, both HUD-approved agencies.

Pastor Turner encourages anyone with any interest in buying a home in San Bernardino to sign up for at least the introductory session of the Homebuyer Education courses, even if they think they wouldn’t qualify to buy a home.

“Many times, because of their credit situation or income, people think they can’t qualify to buy a home,” he said. “But this program is designed for low-income people and the Homebuyer Education courses will help them understand the home buying and ownership process.”

“Even if now is not the right time to buy a home, it is good for people to have their paperwork in order, and have their credit secured,” Pastor Turner said. “By the time they have all that together, it may be that they can qualify.”

For more information or a list of available homes through the Inland Empire Concerned African-American Churches program please call Pastor Ray Turner at (909) 663 0198.

For more information on the Homeowners’ Assistance Program call the NID-Housing Counseling Agency at (909) 887-8700 or the Neighborhood Housing Service of the Inland Empire, Inc. at (909) 884-6891.


Path to Prosperity Helps Men Get Back on Right Track

 Sal Reyes and Daryl Raymond, front left to right, at their San Bernardino Valley College graduation. The two men obtained help getting their lives back on track from Path to Prosperity, a program of The Salvation Army, after overcoming methamphetamine addiction. They are now beginning work on bachelor’s degrees at California State University, San Bernardino.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) More than 200 men, all former drug and alcohol addicts, have found their way to a better future through Path to Prosperity, a program of The Salvation Army.

Two of the most recent are Daryl Raymond, 34 and Sal Reyes, 38. With the help of Path to Prosperity, both of them recently graduated from San Bernardino Valley College, and are now enrolled at California State University, San Bernardino to begin working on bachelor’s degrees this fall.

After becoming addicted to methamphetamine, both Raymond and Reyes ended up a few years ago at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, which are residential treatment programs run by The Salvation Army to help men recover from their addictions. In the in the Inland Empire these programs operate in San Bernardino and Perris.

After completing the programs offered by the local Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers, both men enrolled in Path to Prosperity, a program offered by the San Bernardino Corps of the Salvation Army. The Path to Prosperity program, which for most men lasts 18 to 24 months, focuses on helping men obtain the skills they need to become self-supporting and financially independent.

Now that they’ve completed the Path to Prosperity program, Reyes has already embarked on his new chosen career, counseling. Prior to obtaining his associate degree with honors in Human Services, he found part-time employment with MFI Recovery in Riverside as a drug and alcohol counselor. After he obtains a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and perhaps a Master’s degree in a related field, he hopes to open his own practice as a marriage and family therapist.

After Raymond completes a double major at Cal State San Bernardino in Transportation & Logistics, and Business Entrepreneurship, he plans to get back into the transportation industry in some capacity. He is also considering a Master’s degree in Business Administration to enhance his future career earning potential.

“I was an operations manager for a local trucking company for eight years,” Raymond said. “Then, I kind of drifted. I was what is known as a functional addict, which meant I went to work and lived a normal life. Eventually, a functional addiction collapses and becomes a full-blown addiction. You lose your job. You lose your car. You lose your family – all within a matter of months.”

Path to Prosperity is open to any man who has successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program and can prove he has lived clean and sober for the last six months. Although open to men who have completed other programs, Adult Rehabilitation Center graduates from San Bernardino and Perris make up the vast majority of enrollment in the Path to Prosperity program.

Since Path to Prosperity is limited to 27 men at one time, and both Adult Rehabilitation Centers have more than 100 men each enrolled, the ARC graduates also form a waiting list of those hoping to join when space is available. Not all ARC graduates enroll in Path to Prosperity, but Reyes and Raymond say as many who can, should.

“Path to Prosperity allows you to transition back into normal life after you have completed a substance abuse program,” Raymond said. “It is the best decision, even if you have a home to go to before then.”

“Spending more time in Path to Prosperity after time in recovery outweighs the six years, 10 years or however long they have spent in a drug environment,” Reyes said. “It will give them the tools they need to stabilize their life, and to live out their recovery in an every day life, away from the highly regulated environment of the Adult Rehabilitation Centers.”

Men who are battling drug addiction usually need a highly regulated environment to get away from drug addiction, because they are used to making bad choices, Reyes explained. When they get to Path to Prosperity, they’re able to make better choices, so this program, while providing some structure, gives far more freedom to the men enrolled.

“It’s like being 18 years old, living at home, and still having to obey your parents’ rules,” Raymond said of Path to Prosperity.

“Our program is structured and disciplined,” said John Fletcher, program director. “But those men who are committed and strive to change the direction of their lives understand and learn to fully embrace the recovery process". 

Since the main purpose of Path to Prosperity is to help the men obtain the skills they need to live independently, most Path to Prosperity members immediately enroll in San Bernardino Valley College. There, they will complete an associate degree, as Reyes and Raymond have done, or certification for a vocational trade.

"The majority of the clients in the program attend San Bernardino Valley College or work full time,”. Fletcher said. “Those who attend college have a proven track record of maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 or better.”

Some of the men must first obtain a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) before enrolling at San Bernardino Valley College. A few are able to enroll directly into California State University, San Bernardino.

While they’re obtaining their college degree or certificate, the men live at Path to Prosperity. If they have a job, for instance, working part-time at Starbucks as Raymond and Reyes did, they pay one-third of their income as rent.

Both of these men believe Path to Prosperity has helped them get their lives back. They highly recommend it to those coming through the Adult Rehabilitation Centers’ programs behind them.

“Motivation to change and establish healthy priorities is crucial to recovery and long tern abstinence," Fletcher said. "The men who join us understand and soon realize continued sobriety and success are not only possible, but highly probable as they learn how to embrace the recovery principles we teach here. I teach that the sky is not the limit for anyone in our program - it is only the beginning.”

About the Salvation Army San Bernardino Corps
The Salvation Army may be able to provide emergency services including food; lodging for homeless or displaced families; clothing and furniture; assistance with rent or mortgage and transportation when funds are available. The Salvation Army Team Radio Network assists rescue workers and evacuees in such disasters as fires.

The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the Universal Christian Church, and also offers evangelical programs for boys, girls and adults. One of the largest charitable and international service organizations in the world, The Salvation Army has been in existence since 1865 and in San Bernardino since 1887, supporting those in need without discrimination. Donations may always be made online at or by calling 1-(800)-SAL-ARMY.

For local help, call the San Bernardino Corps headquarters at (909) 888-1337.

Men seeking help to overcome drug or alcohol addiction should call their local Adult Rehabilitation Centers at (909) 889-9605 in San Bernardino County or (951) 940-5790 in Riverside County.