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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community & Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Employment Preparation & Procurement, Homeless & Housing, Housing Rehabilitation, Job Training

Mission: Perpetuate the hope of jesus christ through innovative community development that produces equitable dignified housing, a strategic network of good neighbors and the redemptive development of real estate.

Results: Community Development in 2012: 252 family members live in Urban Homeworks housing. 56 Urban Neighbors are engaging in a program that challenges presumptions of poverty and the city. 107 community members are receiving training that can change the legacy of their family. 30 rental will be redemptively redeveloped from foreclosure. 8 homes will be completed to rebuild the foundation of focused areas, providing affordable home ownership

Geographic areas served: Disadvantaged neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN.

Programs: Real estate development - acquisition of housing:urban homeworks has constructed, rehabilitated and managed scattered, multi-unit and single-family housing in distressed areas of minneapolis and st. Paul since 1995. We are unique in the twin cities in our focus on smaller, multi-unit rental properties. We have committed to this approach to building healthy neighborhoods through multiple access points in the housing ecosystem. Specifically, these properties, along with affordable single-family homes, provide critical access to family-sized rental properties and homeownership for our largest demographic of housing participants - families in need of 3 or more bedrooms. Since the organization was founded, it has rehabilitated, rented and managed over 170 units. Urban homeworks currently has a portfolio inventory of 119 multi-family rental units, 29 single family homes, and 12 vacant lots for future single family new construction. Rehabilitation of housing:our model for rehabilitating housing leverages our housing development and construction process to maximize the economic and social benefit to the communities we serve. Reclaiming abandoned/foreclosed properties is a cost-effective approach to increasing the housing supply in the twin cities. We have looked at our real estate development efforts and determined the investment can do more than just add much needed housing units; our affordable housing investments are directly tied to our efforts to trigger both a housing and economic recovery through partnerships, hands-on training and job creation. Through collaboration, our model is designed to expand economic opportunities and the economic impact of our work in the communities we serve through localized hiring of underutilized local, minority, female and section 3 subcontractors and trainees; deliberate training of individuals with barriers to work and at-risk youth; job connections and job creation. This component of our program ensures dollars invested in housing remain in the community in which they are intended to benefit - thus layering the impact of the housing development investment. All construction training completed on urban homeworks' worksites are done in partnership with our training partners: goodwill easter seals and tree trust's youthbuild programming. Construction skills trainees are male and female localized residents in our service area who are unemployed and low-income households and under employed prior to entry into the program. Many have barriers to full time employment prior to program participation. Construction skills training activities occur on our housing development work-sites. Through deliberate project design, we have embedded high-touch work force development with hard construction skills training. Volunteers are an essential component to our programming. In 2014, 1,188 volunteers worked alongside our subcontractors and trainees, donating 3,183 volunteer days on urban homeworks' job sites and to our programming efforts. In late 2013, as part of our effort to collectively grow the economic impact in our community, urban homeworks launched our urban construction company (uc2). Uc2 is a social venture designed to engage low-income, at-risk youth that have completed construction training through our partner tree trust and wish to work in the construction trades, but lack sufficient job experience to attain full-time employment. Our pilot provides paid, benefited position with deliberate job skill development specific to building codes and core building competencies of concrete/masonry, general carpentry and building processes. As we enter our second summer of the pilot, we have 100% retention of the initial cohort with an additional crew member added during the summer of 2014. The work sites are deliberately utilized as a space to learn with support. The uc2 staff are on-site as mentors and teachers while holding the crew responsible to the work. The hours spent alongside their mentors and their peers shingling roofs, paving driveways, building stairs and decks, etc. Has resulted in a level of experience and commitment that could not have been achieved in a traditional training program. Our model uses the experience of work well done to educate and motivate our crew. These "real-world" skills will serve them well as they enter into the construction trades, continue with their education or another chosen field of work.

rental programs -occupancy of housing:housing - rental programming - our restored units are well-built, maintained, affordable rental opportunities for individuals and families priced out of many twin cities rental markets. Partnerships with local social service organizations provide additional support by serving as advocates for the residents and providing necessary social services. Resources from these social service partners, combined with a supportive landlord and quality, dignified housing, weave a web of support for program participants. Through stable, dignified rental properties, individuals are able to become part of their community support structures, schools and economic opportunities. Housing - ownership programming - project: reclaim preserves existing affordable housing by capturing properties that have not been maintained as viable units by market forces, and restores them to their highest use: perpetually affordable homeownership opportunities that are contributing physical assets for the neighborhood. Project: reclaim mitigates the economic and social impact of underutilized, vacant and/or foreclosed single family homes. Project: reclaim hinges on a responsible contract for deed which allows families to begin living in the home while they participate in financial literacy training carefully designed to provide the opportunity for adequate credit repair and deep financial education tied to financial stability and home ownership. Families accepted into the program are coached extensively by urban homeworks' staff and commit to developing and executing a detailed, individual work plan starting with homestrech classes followed by pre-purchase classes at city of lakes community land trust, financial literacy/budgeting classes at buildwealth mn or lutheran social services and regularly scheduled monthly check-ins with urban homeworks' staff along with quarterly financial reviews to ensure financial goals and benchmarks are being met. The financial education commitment continues for as long as a participant is in the contract for deed program (typically 2-5 years). Unique to our model is our high-touch, real-world application of financial learning. We are connecting instruction to outcomes applicable to individual families. The depth of this combined learning/application experience creates true financial knowledge and long-range planning that extends to reducing debt, decreasing monthly housing related expenses, setting and adhering to a monthly budget, increasing credit scores and finding ways to increase or stabilize streams of income. The impact of our committed approach to financial literacy has resulted in improved financial health for our participants over time: " the average participant initial credit score is 560. " the average participant final/current credit score is 621. " the average credit score increase is 61 points. " the average annual increase is 42 points. (participants' time in programming varies). Northside home partnership is programmatically similar to project: reclaim, but is specific to north minneapolis. In partnership with project for pride in living, urban homeworks will purchase and renovate over time a total of 100 single-family homes. The homes will be rented to families; households will attend financial training until they qualify for a mortgage to purchase the home. All homes will ultimately be sold to owner occupied households. Community engagement:urban homeworks' approach to community engagement is rooted in the goal that all programs we operate are inextricably linked to the authentic expression of the community's vision. Through a continual feedback loop from acquisition through occupancy, we are building a collaborative web of dovetailed expertise to collectively build sustainable, equitable solutions across the social and economic continuum of the twin cities. Engagement work happens on a resident level through informal and formal networks, neighborhood events, connections with resources in the community, participation in urban homeworks planning and work, and many other opportunities as our pods grow organically and respond to real-time conditions. Pod areas are determined by having both high instances of housing instability and a high need for engagement to build community networks. As part of our community engagement effort, we have developed our unique urban neighbors program which places "urban neighbors" in one unit of a small multi-family building, typically a duplex, triplex or fourplex. The urban neighbor community is a faith-motivated, ministry-of presence experience for college students and working professionals. Urban neighbors volunteer 2-3 hours per week under the leadership of other organizations already working in the community. To date, these hours have been served at more than 40 nonprofits including dinomights, kinship, english learning center, american indian oic, neighborhood schools and churches, and many more.

other programsincludes other community development activities not directly related to the rental or real estate development programs, but are in line with the organization's mission.

Community Stories

3 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I work nationally as a consultant and trainer to housing development nonprofits. These travels allow me to have many conversations with leadership and front line staff in all parts of the country with regard to best practices, challenges, and sustainable impact. Urban Homeworks is by far the most creative, productive, and innovative community development organizations in the entire country. And to top it all off, they do what they do in true parttnership with the entire community and with a faith-based mission in the heart of the city!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I worked in the same community with Urban Homeworks for much of a year. I arrived just after the devastation of the tornado and was more than impressed with the leadership and effort Urban Homeworks dedicated to addressing the needs in the community. This is one example of how their team is both exceedingly professional while also deeply personally committed to their work and the people and community.
It’s a pleasure to see the creativity, persistence, and shear hard work that this organization brings to its mission-based work. They have a profound impact. Executive Director, Chad Schwitters, is a smart, passionate, committed individual leading a team of exceptional people to work in concert with the neighborhood.
Urban Homeworks stands out among the best and most impactful organizations in the Twin Cities without a doubt.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I can't say enough positive things about the folks at Urban Homeworks, the thought they put into executing their work in the community and the passion that is palpable in every interaction I've had with them. I've had the great pleasure of working with them on a number of initiatives; their work ethic is unmatched. To boot, they are a fun-loving staff and always a joy to be around. Results are key to success in the community development field. The numbers they put up - supported by the stories told by families and individuals they have helped - speak for themselves. Innovation + Passion is a winning formula. This is an A+ organization.