In the fall of 1970, a small group of concerned members of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian, gathered to assess the needs of Cleveland Heights and whether a church committed to open housing and racial harmony could do something to meet those needs.
Maintaining quality housing seemed to be key to the future of a vital integrated community. Home Repair Resource Center, (originally Forest Hill Church Housing Corporation, and later FHC Housing Corporation,) was established in 1971. It began with a demonstration project: buying and renovating a two-family home on Taylor Road into a single-family home. However, cuts in government programs brought the planned ten-home project to an abrupt end.
The organization refocused its efforts in 1973, resulting in the birth of the Challenge Fund. The Board of Trustees foresaw that the private sector could meet citizens’ home repair needs — and thus the City’s housing preservation needs — when they could not be met in conventional ways. With a $5,000 challenge grant from Forest Hill Church, a fund was created to guarantee bank loans for homeowners who did not qualify under normal criteria.
Over the years, Home Repair Resource Center has built a broad base of support from individuals in the community and has become the primary advocate for housing in Cleveland Heights. Grants from the Cleveland Foundation provided major support for the Challenge Fund, and the George Gund Foundation provided funding to initiate a tool loan and to support the development of the Project Repair program. Operating support provided by Community Development Block grant funding through the City of Cleveland Heights has allowed Home Repair Resource Center to offer financial assistance programs that help homeowners complete repairs to their homes.
Home Repair Resource Center works in partnership with the City of Cleveland Heights, so residents have the flexibility to qualify for programs of both organizations at one time, or to move from one program into another, as appropriate to individual circumstances and the repair needs of the property. The partnership brings the two agencies into regular contact, ensuring back-and-forth communication and the development of a cooperative working relationship, so that the repair needs of the community are well served.
We have seen the difference our assistance makes in the lives of Cleveland Heights residents. Our financial programs, counseling, and educational opportunities provide the resources many need to maintain not only the physical structure of their homes, but also a positive living environment for families. They emphasize self-help, and promote increased self-reliance and competence in dealing with home repair needs. Clients grow in self-esteem as they learn to manage the process of contracting home repairs, as they pay back their loan, and as they gain experience working with tools and repair techniques. And, we have seen the difference our rehabilitation efforts have made in the larger community, instilling pride in neighborhoods and affording volunteers an opportunity to make a “hands-on” contribution at the local level.
As HRRC looks to the future, our priority will continue to be helping Cleveland Heights homeowners keep their homes in good condition. Our focus has broadened, however, as we now offer programs to residents of other communities and focus on ensuring the sustainability of older housing.
A 2012 video, produced by Home Repair Resource Center in conjunction with HRRC’s 40th Anniversary, contains more details about the organization’s history.