I could hardly wait to see inside.
I had heard from my colleagues at St. Paul Lutheran in Davenport, Katy Warren and Todd Byerly, that the house had considerable debris in most all of its rooms. I saw, from my daily drives up and down Grand Avenue in Davenport, that since the house had been donated, the work that had been done to trim away trees that covered most of the house’s exterior. I knew that two Dumpsters were delivered on the Friday before, waiting to be filled.
"It’s been abandoned for over 10 years," said Rusty Boruff, the founder of One Eighty, a Davenport-based organization that is leading the renovation and supporting home ownership programming. "Most would drive by it and be scared to even look at it let alone own it. Our team sees a house that is ready to fulfill its purpose again."
This specific house is part of One Eighty’s initiative that is designed to create home ownership. St. Paul is partnering with them to make it happen for this one house, one family.
I understand there are lots of things to take into account when rehabbing an old, abandoned house. Is the structure really up to this, or, as you might hear some people say: Are the bones good? I trusted the wisdom of the One Eighty and St. Paul people that the answer to that question was yes.
What I really wanted to see and feel was whether this could make a good home for a family.
As I stepped inside the front door on Saturday morning, Oct. 5, the first thing I noticed was the stairway with beautiful wood and leaded-glass windows. The second thing I noticed was the fireplace in the living room.
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As I continued my way through, I could visualize a family sitting at the dining room table for homework and supper. I could imagine kids playing in the yard or across the street at the park. I could hear beeping alarm clocks waking everyone up in the morning for work and school.
My dad still teases me about when I found my home, which is up the street a bit from this particular house. I told him that when I walked in the door for the first time that it hugged me.
As strange as this sounds, I had the same experience when I walked into this house, too.
Home is important. It breaks my heart when I see abandoned houses in the city of Davenport – houses that could be home for a family who desperately needs an affordable and safe place to put down roots and live.
On that Saturday morning, a crew of about 30 people donned Tyvek suits and descended to do the cleanup and demolition necessary to clear the way for renovation. The good that will be done with this one home can't be overestimated. One family will have one home in one neighborhood to live a life of stability that owning a home brings. No more moving around and the rebuilding of systems that requires. No more worrying about a landlord that decides to sell or raise the rent.
About a year and a half ago, our congregation read "Evicted" by Matthew Desmond. A line in that book will stick with me for the rest of my life: "Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart."
It stuck with others, too. And now, gratefully, the possibility of everything falling apart is becoming less and less of a possibility for one pretty incredible family.