The website of the Synod’s National Housing Support Corporation (NHSC) “is a really good place to start” if your congregation, district or other Lutheran group is interested in learning about neighborhood revitalization, according to James Kienker, director of Advancement for NHSC.
In operation since July 12, the website — at nationalhousingsupport.org — offers information, resources and grants designed to help Lutherans get involved in housing construction and rehabilitation, community gardening, resident leadership development and community outreach. And, over the next few months, NHSC plans to offer free webinars, as well.
Founded to provide consulting services and access to financial resources to Lutherans nationwide who are seeking to better their communities, NHSC (doing business as Lutheran Housing Support) also builds homes as a hands-on community-development organization in St. Louis.
Its first completed “Nazareth Home” in the impoverished College Hill neighborhood was celebrated Aug. 23 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that involved a number of St. Louis dignitaries, including Mayor Francis G. Slay. Click here for more information.
CEO Nicole Ridley says NHSC can help congregations and other Lutheran groups with an interest in community development determine “what their role might be” in that work. The key, Ridley says, is assessing the needs of the community.
Well-meaning congregations sometimes contact the NHSC office with a plan to fix up abandoned houses in their communities without talking to others in the area first.
“Our role is to help them get out and connected with the neighborhood and the residents — and those agencies that are already serving those communities — to get a sense of what really are the unmet needs,” she said.
If other groups and agencies are already involved in addressing local housing needs, congregations often can work with them as partners “to strengthen their efforts.” If not, Ridley says NHSC staff can help the Lutheran congregation or group determine “what their role might be, and how we can build their capacity to make that happen.”
Housing ministry, like other “mercy ministries,” can “absolutely” help bring people to Christ, she said: “We’re called as Christians to love our neighbors, and this is a real hands-on way that we can do so, in a very tangible way, that has visible and spiritual results.”
Every year NHSC provides support to more than 30 organizations through its grants, consulting services and training programs.
Sept. 20 is the application deadline for two grant opportunities this fall:
- Feasibility Study Grants of up to $5,000 may be used for preliminary research into elderly housing needs near a congregation or other group.
- Domestic Grants of up to $10,000 may be used for direct costs — such as construction-related labor and material expenses — for elderly housing projects in the United States.
Other NHSC grants are:
- Servant Event Grants (up to $3,000 each), which may be used by volunteer groups to beautify or do light home-rehab work for projects that focus on elderly housing needs in the United States. The deadline for applications is April 1.
- Emergency Grants (up to $10,000 each), which may be used to provide housing-relief services in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters such as tornadoes or terrorist attacks. Applications may be submitted anytime.
Information about grants, including online applications, is available under the website’s “Services” and “Resources” tabs.
Also available is information about loans, NHSC’s “Customized Consulting Services,” the College Hill project in St. Louis and past projects.
The website includes a fundraising “primer,” a document library, and more than a dozen links to outside resources for community development and fundraising, such as the Community Development Society, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, NeighborWorks America and the National Housing Institute.
Soon to come is an online “toolkit” of resources to guide congregations, districts and social ministries “through what they need to know in terms of getting a housing project together,” said Ridley. A webinar on fundraising is planned for this fall.
The website also offers information on contributing to — and volunteering with — NHSC, as well as a photo gallery, a calendar of events and news stories.
“We have tried to put as much information on our website as possible, and we will be continually updating and adding to it,” said Kienker.
To contact the St. Louis-based LCMS National Housing Support Corporation, call 888-843-5267 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated Sept. 18, 2013