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Constructing Futures Initiative A Path To Home Ownership For Ivanhoe Family

Elle Moxley
Barbara Nelson says she thanks God every day for the home Jackson County gave her six years ago. Wednesday, Nelson received the title to that home as part of a community housing initiative to put families into renovated vacant houses.

An emotional Barbara Nelson thanked Jackson County officials and neighbors Wednesday for the home she now owns.

“I’m going to walk in that grass today without my shoes,” she declared through her tears after receiving a clear title to the house she and her daughters moved into six years ago.

Nelson, once homeless, was the first recipient of a completely renovated house through Jackson County’s Constructing Futures initiative. The program provides on-the-job training to people who were incarcerated as they work to fix up a vacant house.

County Executive Mike Sanders says it’s good for the neighborhood because it reduces blight, and it’s good for people like Nelson who get a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have to own their own homes.

“Think of what it means not to get those calls for service at this home, to have a good family that’s there helping the neighborhood,” Sanders said.

Margaret May with the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council says with the help of community groups, Kansas City Police have shut down more than 700 drug houses in the area since 2000.

“Now I wish I could tell you we don’t have anymore drug houses,” said May, “but it’s nothing like one on every block like it used to be. Occasionally, though, we still have one pop up. Officer (Nathan) Hurley over there just last week sent me an email. He’s got his eye on one. That one, too, will be closed.”

Eventually, that drug house could be revamped into a single family home, as Nelson’s property was.

So far, Jackson County has renovated six vacant properties and turned them over to formerly homeless families. Nelson is the first to earn a clear title for her house, which she did by paying for taxes, insurance and a security system.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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