Local non-profit repairs abandoned home for homeless youth

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A local non-profit is pulling people off the streets and into permanent housing.

We first told you about Well House in September of 2016, it's an organization that buys vacant, boarded-up homes, brings them up to code and then rents rooms to those in need.

Well House opened in 1978 as a haven for the homeless and has pulled more than 120 people off of the streets in just three years.

Now, Well House's Executive Director, Tami VandenBerg, is hoping to help even more people with the new Youth House, for homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24.

VandenBerg says affordable housing for youth is a huge need in the community. So, with the help of the Well House staff, VandenBerg decided to redo a boarded up home on Madison Ave SE and turn it into a safe haven.

Now, after nearly a year of hard work, the home is nearly complete. VandenBerg says it has been a long time coming. When she and the Well House team first walked into the home, trash trailed the floor, the home was abandoned and "nature was starting to take it back."

Now, the Well House team can't believe their eyes. The trash is gone, the floors are refinished, the roof and ceiling are both redone. All of the furniture was donated, including sheets, trashcans and beds. All of the appliances are new.

"This house has been a bit of a beast," VandenBerg said. "It’s a beautiful historic home that was slated to be knocked down and we saved it."

But VandenBerg didn't just save a home, she's saving lives.

"They [youth in foster care] may have already experienced trauma in their life and a lot of research is showing if kids become homeless immediately after some type of institution, their likelihood to be homeless on and off for the rest of their life is incredibly high," she said. "The goal is to keep people safe, give them housing."

The Youth House will cost tenants $275 a month. There are six rooms that will house five people and a house parent, who has yet to be hired in. VandenBerg says the position will act like a college resident assistant.

The project will cost $100,000 in total, including the purchase of the home, renovations, tenants they hired, contractors and Well House staff.

"There were times people got discouraged, it feels good to be so close to the launch," VandenBerg said.

The official launch is scheduled for Jan. 16. If you know someone in need of affordable housing, tell them to get their application in ASAP. They do need proof that they're homeless, whether that's a pay stub or attendance record from a homeless shelter or encampment of some kind.

You can apply online here or visit the Well House location located at 600 Cass Ave in Grand Rapids.

The Youth House was funded with the help of the W.K Kellogg Foundation, individuals and other local businesses.

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