Passersby on Miller Road in Mauldin will have no doubt noticed the new, Charleston-style homes that have gone up in recent weeks. The six-unit development, named Curtis Place, is the second project in Mauldin for the Greenville-based Homes of Hope.
For the new occupants, Curtis Place represents more than just a new roof over their heads. It means a new start.
Melinda is one of those occupants. As a special education therapist for Greenville County Schools, she knows what it means to shepherd people through challenging circumstances. But she probably did not expect she ever would need help with challenges in her own life.
But three years ago, without any place to go, she fled an abusive relationship with her sons, one an infant, the other age 7. She did what she could to keep the family afloat until September of last year when a Section 8 representative informed her about Homes of Hope’s upcoming plans for Mauldin.
For Melinda, it was perfect. Her oldest son, now 10, attends a Mauldin-area elementary school and Mauldin is where Melinda grew up. So, she applied along with 50 other families for one of the 10 spots in Curtis Place (each unit has two, one-floor apartments. The sixth unit is occupied by as property manager). To Melinda’s delight, her application was accepted.
A Dedicated Advocate
Melinda worked closely with Denice Harris, the asset development manager for Homes of Hope, throughout the application process. Melinda said, “Denice did not make me feel like a person in need. She always treated me with respect.”
When Harris was told of Melinda’s praise, she was gratified, but also felt that being compassionate is a large component of her job.
“No one ever thinks they could end up in that situation. I just treat people the way I would want to be treated,” Harris said.
Homes of Hope is now in its 14th year of operation and Harris is one of its 11 employees. In those 14 years, Homes of Hope has found housing for more than 360 families in either single-family homes or duplexes like the one into which Melinda is moving.
Harris said she encounters families in variety of circumstances. Some are homeless, some are living in inhabitable conditions, some are in situations like Melinda. How they got in to such circumstances matters little, but their ability to get out does.
Harris noted that the families she works with need to be able to set aside 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities. If necessary, Homes of Hope, through a combination of grants and loans, will help make that happen of necessary.
At any point in time, there are 100 families in Greenville on Homes of Hope’s waiting list, according to Harris. Though the economy has improved, Harris said there is always a need for affordable housing.
Homes of Hope specializes in keeping a lot of balls in the air at one time. The organization is perpetually looking for property, working with banks, and working with officials in cities like Mauldin.
Mauldin’s Mayor Dennis Raines said working with Homes of Hope is a privilege. “They are a great partner who helps people who really need them,” Raines said. “We're always happy to work with them.”
Raines said that a project for senior housing is in the works between Mauldin and Homes of Hope. It would be the third project between the city and the Christian non-profit, the second being Curtis Place. The first, a little further down Miller Road, was Aleda Terrace.
Just the Beginning
Melinda is scheduled to move in later this week. Her new home has a balcony, a sizable living room, an ample kitchen, three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths. She said her oldest son can’t wait to have his own bedroom.
Last week, Melinda finally visited the home she had only heard about. Walking up the stairs to her new home for the first time, her face was a combination of joy, relief, and, yes, hope. Curtis Place is not the end for Melinda, it is a beginning.
“My life is starting to get back on track,” she said. “I want to own a home again someday.”
As Melinda took in her new residence, a videographer from Homes of Hope chronicled her visit, which will be shared at a dinner and auction on May 11.
Off to the side, Harris was taking in a scene she has witnessed many times. It never gets old. Through a smile she said, “It’s so rewarding when you can help someone. We’re truly making a difference.”