Sunday, April 17, 2005

Earl

Yesterday I had the privilege of driving around downtown Houston, Texas with Earl.

Earl W. Hatcher is a big, burly chap with a full grey beard and bushy fair. I judge him to be approaching 60-years-old. Earl is the Executive Director of Houston SRO Housing Corporation.

Earl and his company develop and manage single room occupancy (SRO) apartments that house formerly homeless individuals.

As he drove our group around his world, I recognized we were riding with a person who really understands the world of homelessness. Earl is a virtual encyclopedia of information, statistics and human understanding.

His work is first-rate and downright amazing. Houston SRO Housing Corporation has developed a number of SRO sites--several right around the downtown location of Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros Baseball Club. A number of the residents of Earl's properties work at the ballpark during baseball season.

We toured one site that had been an old hotel--the DeGeorge at Union Station. This project caters only to veterans. The place is wonderful. The restoration is great. Best of all, the development works as a business deal--the rents keep it operational for the residents, all of whom pay $381 monthly. Each apartment includes a bath and a kitchen area.

In the neighborhood around Earl's development I noticed upscale loft apartments, restaurants, and expensive condos, in addition to the new ballpark. Talk about mixed-use development!

I asked Earl lots of questions. Mainly though, I wanted to know if the project worked socially. Were the formerly homeless good tenants? Did they cause problems for surrounding businesses? Did they get along with their more affluent neighbors? Were they an asset or a liability to the area? Was crime a problem?

Earl answered every question with patience and clarity. In every case the answers were what I expected: the development is working very well and the residents of the DeGeorge were an important part of the downtown renewal underway. They were definitely assets to the city.

Earl is an amazing guy. Totally committed to his calling and work. Totally disgusted with what has happened in our country since 1980. Earl can see the forces that have combined to make life harder for the poor and marginalized.

Next time you're in Houston stop by the corner of Preston and LaBranch and check out the DeGeorge. It has a great view of the Astro's new home. Life seems to really work there for folks who not long ago were sleeping on the sidewalk.

5 comments:

IBreakCellPhones said...

I'm curious as to what percentage of operating expenses would be covered by the rent in a typical SRO and how much funding will be needed from other sources.

Larry James said...

Good question. I did not see the financials on any of the projects we toured. But, I was under the impressions that both of the major sites we toured cash flow based primarily on rental income. I know in our work here in Dallas we are projecting this to be the case. Of course, some of the rent payments will come from public and charitable sources.

IBreakCellPhones said...

Thanks, Larry. That's completely understandable that in our society, some of the rent comes from tax and contributions.

I also appreciate the personal responsibility that will be needed in order to make rent payments. I think personal responsibility is one of the necessary things for self sufficiency. We have the two conflicting commands that we shall "bear one another's burdens" but that each of us shall "bear his own load," in Galatians 6. I know that we on the right tend to emphasize the second over the first, but both are definitely necessary.

Jeremy Gregg said...

Good point. I think the two can work together very well to help us lead a good life -- use 100% of your strength for carrying the load. If it takes 100% of your strength to carry your own, then so be it. But if it only takes 50%, then use the rest to help others with their load.

Regarding the tenants, I think that there is good evidence that suggests that people value something more if they invest in it. That is true whether it is a meal, a health treatment or a home. If we pay for something, we will be sure that we use it well.

Anonymous said...

EDCINDQGREAT ARTICLE...I HAVE JUST RELOCATED TO HOUSTON FROM CHICAGO....I CAME UP IN THE ERA OF MANY SRO'S...I HAVE BEEN THINKIN OF STARTING A BUSSINESS OF CONVERTING OLD USED SHIPPING CONTAINERS INTO LIVING SPACES...ALL THE WORK BEING DONE BY VETERANS....I HAVE SEEN SOME NICE DESIGNS...WOULD LIKE SOME IMPUT INTO THIS IDEA..THANXS