I’d like to tell you about an unusual charity started by a faithful attender of Church of the Advent, Washington, D.C., Adam Bushey. I share this by way of encouragement. Other examples like Adam’s abound in the Diocese of Christ our Hope, and we need to hear and tell these stories. Through people like Adam, and the work God has led him to do, we can all be spurred on to develop similar ministries in our own communities, ministries that flow out of the healing and hope we have received through Christ.
Adam is no slacker in life. He has three jobs: he works in the anticorruption department of USAID, he serves as a reservist JAG officer in the US military, but most important to him, he is the volunteer founder and chairman of ROC, Responsive to our Community.
ROC is an IRS certified 501(c)3 non-profit organization serving people in Syracuse, NY. It is what we might call a “twofer high-capacity charity” – formed to train unemployed at-risk veterans (e.g., prior substance abuse issues, large gaps in employment history) to renovate vacant and dilapidated buildings into apartments. In turn, these apartments are offered to homeless domestic violence survivors and their children. Incredibly, ROC develops these affordable housing units with an average rehab construction cost of $45,000 per unit, half the average cost for rehabbing similar units in Central New York. These savings are passed on to the residents through the form of low rent costs that average half that of similar housing units in the area. ROC achieves these radically low costs through volunteer and pro bono legal, architectural, accounting, administrative, and other support services. (The only full-time staff member is the on-the-job trainer for the veterans.) The generated rental income from the housing units makes each building self-sustaining and operational.
Providing families with refurbished apartments gives the veterans a new sense of mission in life and the skills necessary to do meaningful work. More than that, it meets the basic need for secure housing and shelter for otherwise highly vulnerable adults and children.
The concept of ‘housing first’ is an evidence-based model grounded in the fact that homeless households’ first and primary need is stable housing. Other issues that affect the household, such as chronic medical conditions or unemployment, can only be addressed once the chaos of homelessness is resolved. What ROC is attempting to achieve is likely a first of its kind in Central New York – building affordable housing without government funds, and using 99% of its funds for the actual “product” of the charity.
The Lord moved Adam Bushey to start and develop ROC, and he provided a great team of other volunteer professionals to make it happen. But it all started with Christ’s redemptive healing of Adam’s own story of childhood domestic violence. This is truly a case of the Lord “making all things new,” working all things for good as he transforms his child into the image of Jesus. As you consider the ways that Christ has brought you substantial healing and hope, perhaps you will be challenged to participate in, or even develop, a ministry of compassion in the name of Christ for people whose story of need echoes your own.
More information can be found at: www.responsivecommunity.org.