Membership Spotlight: H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County

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Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

sunset-954702_640Mackinac County: one piece of the larger puzzle that makes up the Upper Peninsula. Many tend  to think of this area as the land of vacations or trips up north, but what about the people who call this area home? Affordable houses are being snatched up by those looking for a summer vacation spot, leaving those who live in the area in a tough spot. Year-round work can be scarce, as most jobs tend to be seasonal with the summer months, and starting your own business can be tedious and difficult. Affording or maintaining housing in this area can become a major struggle. Plus, add to this that access to resources are limited. Internet for filling out applications to helpful services can be spotty, and jobs that may pay more can be miles away – something difficult for community members on a tight budget. This is where H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County comes in.

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“Their main goal is to serve low- to moderate-income homeowners and potential homeowners to allow them to obtain and/or sustain housing, as well as to get any other nonprofit assistance they may need.”

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While Mackinac County – specifically, Saint Ignace – is the base of the organization, H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County serves the entirety of the Upper Peninsula area. Created in the 1990’s as a grassroots effort, H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County aims to help create, provide council on and help community members obtain or maintain their housing. Lori Pieri, the Executive Director, says that the organization started through providing and building homes for low- to moderate-income families. During the housing crisis, H.O.M.E. was hit particularly hard, as now they were a housing nonprofit in a time when buying houses wasn’t on people’s mind. For this reason, they had to adapt and soon began working on foreclosure prevention in their area. Thanks to this, Pieri describes H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County as “experts” in foreclosure prevention, financial capability, homeownership education and counseling. Their main goal is to serve low- to moderate-income homeowners and potential homeowners to allow them to obtain and/or sustain housing, as well as to get any other nonprofit assistance they may need. Since the area they serve, particularly on foreclosure counseling, is so large, they primarily use phones from their small office to talk to community members all across the U.P.

Upper Peninsula community members face challenges that other Michiganders may not realize. As previously stated, jobs are also difficult to find year-round and may have a long commute – which when considering housing and other expenses, may not end up making sense in the long run. Pieri also highlights the remoteness of a number of areas in the U.P., making phone access and connectivity to the Internet difficult. “As many applications for food, heating assistance, etc. are online now, it can be extremely difficult for members of the community to even apply for the help they need when it comes to more than just housing” says Pieri. She goes on to say that AmeriCorps members that work there, as well as her, often spend time on the phone helping community members fill out forms online where Internet is not available.

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“The AmeriCorps members she has worked with have ‘[been able to] see the changing environment and the increasing demand on foreclosure information and counseling’.”

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Pieri explains that one of H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County’s most successful endeavors has been joining the AmeriCorps Program through CEDAM. The AmeriCorps members she has participated with have “[been able to] see the changing environment and the increasing demand on foreclosure information and counseling.” They are able to strategically plan around the needs to our community, and that means we are able to have an ‘ear to the ground’ and react to arising issues quickly”. Pieri also mentions that the AmeriCorps members that serve there have been able to expand their homeownership and homebuyers education, allowed them to have the first Show Me The Money Day in the U.P., and though AmeriCorps members, allows them to have statewide connections.

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“When we see them attain that affordable homeownership cost, that’s our success day-to-day, one household at a time.”

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Pieri says success at H.O.M.E. has nothing to do with the numbers – the bigger focus is “about each time we actually help someone have a reasonable solution. We have a lot of success with Step Forward Michigan, and to see people recover thorough that extra income or ability to pay their mortgage is rewarding. When we see them attain that affordable homeownership cost, that’s our success day-to-day, one household at a time.”

Learn more about H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County at https://homeofmackinac.wordpress.com, and follow them on Facebook.

memberspotlight-smallMembership Spotlight are blogs highlighting the great work that our member organizations do within their communities. If you are a CEDAM member and would like to be featured, please contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

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