Nonprofit LifeBUILDERS will be continuing its housing rehabilitation and repair work in 2019 thanks to a Neighborhood Enhancement Program grant from the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority.

Nonprofit LifeBUILDERS will be continuing its housing rehabilitation and repair work in 2019 thanks to a Neighborhood Enhancement Program grant from the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority.

Photo provided by Natalie Stavale


Nonprofit to repair homes in northeast Detroit

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 14, 2019

DETROIT — Northeast Detroit nonprofit LifeBUILDERS will be continuing housing repair and rehabilitation programs thanks to a Michigan State Housing and Development Authority Neighborhood Enhancement Program grant.

For the last 14 years, LifeBUILDERS has worked to improve the northeast Detroit and Harper Woods communities, focusing on the Regent Park neighborhood, located between Gratiot Avenue and Kelly Road, and between Eight Mile Road and State Fair Avenue.  

“We exist to restore dignity and restore hope to the northeast Detroit neighborhood known as Regent Park, and we do that through empowering youth, building community and reclaiming the neighborhood. What that looks like is rehabbing the blighted housing stock into high-quality, affordable housing,” explained Larry Johnson, the co-founder and executive director of LifeBUILDERS. “We’ve done fifty homes and two apartment buildings, we have converted an old building into a community center, and we have repaired a park with the help of the Kresge Foundation. We also acquired the former Tracy McGregor Elementary School, tore it down, and built a new early childhood education center.”

“We do several different neighborhood cleanup and reclamation projects, and that means cleaning up the local parks, eliminating blight, installing new equipment in parks, repairing houses of seniors and others who can’t care for their own homes, and preparing unoccupied homes for resale,” added Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Mike Sielawa.

Johnson said they are still figuring out exactly when the work will be done using the grant money, but said it should be completed by next autumn. He also said this grant is crucial to continue one of LifeBUILDERS’ most important programs: housing rehabilitation and repair.

“This is the second of two MSHDA grants we’ve received. We received one last year for $30,000, and we did a lot of home repairs with it in the community,” he said. “It came as a result of a grant opportunity that opened up, and 50 nonprofits applied. We got it largely because we have been working in the community for 14 years. It’s called the Neighborhood Enhancement Program from MSHDA. … We received $50,000 this year for a couple of pocket parks in the community, and some more significant repairs to homes in the community on things like roofs, porches, driveways and so forth. Those will be done this summer. We were granted this second round because we were one of the four performers with the funding we received from MSHDA last year.”

LifeBUILDERS is now putting the call out for volunteers to assist in its efforts.

“There’s a lot of people in this neighborhood who are elderly, who can’t get out and do work. We are helping people who can’t help themselves all the time,” said Sielawa. “We are making a difference and providing labor to get stuff done. By using volunteers, this means we don’t have to pay people to come in and do it, which saves money that we can use on other projects; it allows us to get more done.”

The repair or rehabilitation services offered by LifeBUILDERS are available to those who qualify and are residents of the Regent Park neighborhood.

“They have to live in the Regent Park area. People can apply at our office, and we look at the applications, and we select them based on their being current with their local taxes and their being able to prove they are a homeowner and not a renter,” Johnson explained. “We then talk with the residents and contractors to determine the details, and we make those repairs on the homes.”

Johnson said the money from this grant will do a lot of good in the community.

“As a Christian community development organization, we do our best to redistribute resources into our community so we can help people do things they would have been unable to do if we weren’t here,” he said. “For instance, if an elderly resident is faced with a leaky roof, if we can repair that roof and help give them a more secure and happy life in the community, we want to do that. This funding will help people make repairs they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”

Those interested in volunteering or inquiring about the services offered by LifeBUILDERS can reach the organization by calling (313) 401-5433 or by emailing info@lifebuildersdetroit.com. More information is available at www.lifebuildersdetroit.com.

“I want the community to see this is just another service or another extension of our ministry here in the community,” Johnson said. “When we are able to provide resources for people here, we want people to know we are always looking for ways to improve life in Regent Park.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.