By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (July 19, 2016) – Community Outreach Housing is on a mission. The nonprofit organization is working to rehabilitate depressed homes in Stephenville and the surrounding area while providing affordable housing to low income residents.
The nonprofit started with just two homes about four years ago and has grown to 11. Nine of those homes are located in Stephenville with all but one occupied. The homes provide an affordable housing option for qualified families and individuals, offering reasonable rental rates that include paid utilities and lawn care.
It all begins when Community Outreach Housing (COH) purchases a home – often unoccupied with dwindling property values and in need of extensive repair, according to Tami Gardner, president of the organization.
The labor of love, the rehabilitation of the home, follows. The Gardner family knows a lot about construction and residential renovations. Hamilton native Darrell Gardner, Tami’s husband, has been in the business for about three decades. He owns DLG Services, a construction company, in the Dallas area.
Tami said while they’re busy with a profitable business in the big city, God led them to Stephenville – a place where they would eventually like to live out their retirement years. They wanted to do more than own rental properties, they wanted to help families in need.
DLG serves as the preferred contractor for the nonprofit, but Tami says she shops locally for vendors and labor and also works with a Stephenville bank and title company.
Meanwhile, Tami explains the guidelines the organization follows when placing qualified residents in COH home.
“We follow USDA standards,” she said. “Applicants must be 30 percent below the average median income in Stephenville to qualify. College students must be receiving financial aid.”
Qualified applicants benefit from reduced rental rates, paid utilities and other service. Tami explains there’s a limit of $300 per utility, with the tenant paying the overage.
“We cover water, gas and water/sewer and also maintain the yard,” she said. “Our tenants only have one bill to pay.”
COH currently has each of its properties under rental agreement with Tami serving as property manager, but she says the greater goal is helping renters to eventually become homeowners.
As with any nonprofit organization, community partnerships are needed to successfully operate.
“We could not do this without donations,” Tami said. “We have bank loans to cover, these homes are not paid off and we have insurance to pay. We’re paying utility bills and skilled laborers for jobs like roofing and drywall.”
Donations fueling the charitable organization come in many forms. Area home improvement stores, lumber yards and building supply shops have donated materials such as paint, shingles and other supplies.
“We also love volunteers,” Tami said, adding individuals can log community service hours completing jobs that don’t require skilled laborers, such as site cleanup, lawn care and landscaping
In addition to providing affordable housing solutions and improving the appearance of the neighborhoods where they are located, Tami says COH is improving the community by improving curb appeal and increasing values.
“We come in and bring the home up to the neighborhood’s appraised value,” Tami said.
COH’s most recent project is located at 845 S. Ollie Street, where an open house will be held in early August. Tami says she excited to show off the organization’s work and network with fellow stakeholders.
“We took a very depressed, underserved home and resurrected it,” Tami said. “It was a mess, but we brought it back to life, preserving much of the original character – wood trim, floors and doors. It has a farmhouse feel.”
The August 4 open house and Stephenville Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting begins at 4:30 p.m.
“We will have volunteer signup forms and applications for people who need housing,” Tami said. “For community members who are looking to serve others, there’s a ministry right here in your own backyard. There’s community service that needs to be done right here in town. Once you learn to serve at home, you can serve anywhere.”