After the Taylor family was displaced when their landlord lost their house to foreclosure, Ms. Taylor decided to move the family in with her sister. It was not easy fitting herself and four children into her sister’s two-bedroom flat.
After receiving an email from The City of Detroit about The Matrix Human Services Home Buyer Program, Ms. Taylor decided to learn more about home ownership and contacted Matrix. Although she felt that owning a home was a long shot, it was there that she began financial coaching and general discussion about her goals with Matrix Financial Empowerment Services Manager, Cynthia LeJeune. It just so happened that SAY Detroit had also recently contacted Matrix seeking a family who would be a good fit for their Working Homes, Working Families Program.
SAY Detroit improves the lives of Detroit’s neediest citizens through shelter, food, medical care, volunteer efforts and education. It serves as the umbrella organization for ongoing major projects, such as Working Homes / Working Families. It also supports dozens of likeminded charities in the Detroit area through funds raised at Albom’s annual December Radiothon, broadcast live on WJR (760 AM) from Somerset Collection in Troy, MI.
The idea of Working Homes/Working Families is simple: Detroit has too many empty or abandoned houses. It also has too many families who lack adequate housing. By encouraging the donation of homes that would otherwise go unused, then utilizing the efforts of volunteers to refurbish those homes, needy working families can be given a decent, clean place to live. Under the program, a family must pay the utilities and taxes, remain employed, and manage the home’s upkeep. If these requirements are met for two years, then the family may be given ownership.
Because of the situation Ms. Taylor and her family were in, seeking a more stable living situation and her desire to own a home instead of rent, Ms. LeJeune recommended she apply for the opportunity with Working Homes, Working Families through Matrix. That was when she talked to Keith Benford, Operations Manager at The Matrix Center, who was also overseeing the partnership with SAY Detroit to find a family for a newly-refurbished home.
“I felt like this would be something… for me personally that I really felt like I could put my stamp, my hand in the community. So, with that being said, when Cynthia brought her to my attention, you know, I spoke with Ms. Taylor on the phone, I told her what we were looking for, what the basic requirements were, ya know over a 500 credit score, not a bunch of evictions… We were trying to find someone who was very stable for the house because with the program, which we all thought was just amazing was the fact that, all you had to do was pay all the bills and the taxes for two years, then they’ll deed the house over to you.” – Keith Benford, Operations Manager at The Matrix Center
Ms. Taylor almost decided not to fill out the application.
“So I said ‘OK, I’ll do it. Then, I didn’t do it… And (Cynthia) called me, I think it was maybe on a Monday, and she said ‘put the application in and just try it.’ I put the application in, Keith called me that Wednesday, and he said I was approved for the home.” – Ms. Taylor
“We come across a lot of good applicants so to speak and she just happened to come, and ya know, I’m a believer of faith, so I looked at that as a God move, for her to come in and to really be able to just, walk through our doors.” – Keith Benford
– Keith Benford, Operations Manager at The Matrix Center
Ms. Taylor had a hard time believing that this could happen to her and her family.
“It was funny because she didn’t really believe us… She was like ‘are you all for real, like, ya’ll playing around? – Keith Benford
But after filling out the paperwork and meeting all of the requirements, Ms. Taylor and her family were chosen to receive the home that was refurbished by SAY Detroit.
“From there, Humble Design did their thing. They called her, they talked to her, they asked her what she likes, they asked her what her kids like, what colors, ya know, things of that nature, and everything she mentioned in that phone conversation, when they walked in the house, it was there.” -Keith Benford
It was at that time when Ms. Taylor came to The Matrix Center to meet Keith and she also brought her oldest son Anthony along. Once again, another door opened for the family. In conversation with Keith, Anthony mentioned he wasn’t doing much until his classes started at Wayne County Community College in January, which prompted Keith to mention The Manufacturing Boot Camp classes starting the next day. Anthony decided to go through the six-week program to obtain training for a career in manufacturing along with an OSHA certification.
Anthony graduated from the Manufacturing Boot Camp on Friday, December 13th, the day after his mother received keys to her new house at Somerset Mall during Mitch Albom’s annual Radiothon.
“To find a house for his mom and his family is one thing, and then for him (Anthony) to use the services is another thing. For all of it to come together… it was just an act. It was out their hands… it was out of our hands… it just moved together.” – Keith
“We definitely try to reach that two-generational… just help, just overall and help the entire family, that way ya know, everyone is succeeding… Also we believe in, turning – changing a life, and changing a person’s overall trajectory, just by reaching the mom and reaching the son, just shows impact of what Matrix is all about and why we are here and have a heart to do.” – Cynthia LeJeune