A group of volunteers is hoping to transform north St. Louis one vacant home at a time.
Eltorean Hawkins is part of a five-member team of volunteers who are holding workshops around north St. Louis as a part of the “Finest 15” partnership.
The Finest 15 is a subcommittee of the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations (SLACO), which has a program specifically aimed at dealing with vacant homes around the city.
“The first thing you hear when they come to the north side, crime,” said Hawkins, “that’s not the first thing for me, ‘cause I’ve been living in it.”
Hawkins purchased a home for himself in the area and quickly realized there was potential.
“After I bought my property I just wanted to see a different place,” he said.
He and the rest of the group hold workshops where they narrow down the 15 vacant homes with the most potential for renovation to show to potential homeowners.
They won’t recommend a home that will take more than $6,000 to renovate.
Most of the homes, once foreclosed and now owned by the city, will sell for $1,000.
The city currently lists close to 3,000 homes owned by the Land Reutilization Authority.
“If we can constantly encourage people,” said Angela Drake, a volunteer in the group, “then five homes could possibly change. That’s five new homeowners coming, five new homeowners in a neighborhood and if those five people got together, things can change.”
Hawkins helped his own friend Donita Sims purchase a home in North City for a little more than $1,000.
She’s currently working on renovations and hopes to move in by next summer.
“Living with my mom," she said, “I think she pays like $800 a month in rent and if you paid $1000 and probably put $60,000 just to move in, that’s a win.”
The group plans to hold five workshops around north St. Louis next year.
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