AmeriCorps group helps improve housing in Hamilton and Butler County

AmeriCorps members helped improve housing in Hamilton and Butler County for three weeks in January, making homes handicap-accessible and helping remodel a formerly abandoned house in Hamilton’s Second Ward/Riverside neighborhood. PROVIDED

Ten young adults with the AmeriCorps service program spent three weeks of January in Hamilton and other parts of Butler County doing things like building wheelchair ramps at houses so people could continue living there.

They also helped remodel a house along Second Street in Hamilton that will be sold this spring to a low-income, first-time homebuyer who has good credit in a neighborhood working to rebuild its residential buildings.

“We’re blessed to have them every year,” said John Post, a housing specialist for SELF (Support to Encourage Low-income Families), who worked with the AmeriCorps people. “This year we might have them twice, so we’re excited about it.”

“They did ramps, and they did a great job with them, mud and such,” Post said. “While they were here, they worked on two two houses in the city of Hamilton, two in Middletown, and two out in the county.”

In another home, they did drywall repairs and painting.

In a help to Hamilton’s Second Ward, also known as the Riverside neighborhood, the group that came from across the country worked on the Second Street house, finishing painting on the inside, and also doing carpentry and cabinetry. Under the program, abandoned or foreclosed houses are bought, renovated and returned to productivity.

They “got this house ready to the point that as soon as we get some of the exterior work done this spring, it’ll be back on the market,” Post said. “That’ll be the fifth house in the county that we’ve done — four of those five in the city of Hamilton — over the last three years.”

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“It’s nice, because we have volunteers do the work on the houses, so we can keep the prices down, and then the city helps them with some down payment assistance, so we can get them in for no money down, and their payments end up being between $600 and $800 a month, depending on the size of the house,” he said. That’s “less than they can do for rental (cost), in today’s market.”

The AmeriCorps program is like the more famous Peace Corps, but works inside the United States. Participants receive stipends of about $1,000 per month, and after the program ends, they can receive scholarships. To keep the program’s costs low, the participants lived in the house they were renovating.

Some of the Hamilton participants already had graduated from college. One was preparing to enter medical school.

“Thanks to our volunteers and people like them,” Post said, “we’ve had some success with this program, and now we’re in the position that the city of Hamilton is actually giving us a house that they had slated to demolish, and we’re going to renovate it,” at 227 N. 11th St. Also, Middletown will give the city’s second to the program, this one on Clark Street there.

“It’s a great program,” Mayor Pat Moeller said during a Jan. 29 presentation about what the group did while here. “So you see the country, you help your neighbors all across the country, and it’s a great way to start your careers and service to others.”

At 7 the next morning, the group drove to Danville, Ill., where their next assignment was to work in state parks, Post said.

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