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Columbus Opens Housing Complex For Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Emmanuel Kendrick, wearing a "Black Lives Matter" shirt, at Marsh Brook Place.
Nick Evans
Emmanuel Kendrick, wearing a "Black Lives Matter" shirt, at Marsh Brook Place.

Early Friday morning, administrators show a wide-eyed Emmanuel Kendrick around one of the apartments at Marsh Brook Place. It’s considered permanent supportive housing, which means residents will have an extended amount of time to build savings and establish careers before moving out.

As his tour guides show off the kitchen and bathroom (“It’s bigger than mine!”), and encourage him to check out the closets, Kendrick stares around and struggles for words.

“I’m speechless, I looked—everything’s just,” Kendrick pauses and takes a deep breath. “It’s way past my expectations. That’s all I can say, I really don’t know what else to say I’m just amazed.”

Community Housing Network built Marsh Brook Place with federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and when it came to designing the space, the organization gathered input from prospective residents. The community play area on the main floor, outdoor picnic space and basketball courts all came from those suggestions, officials say.

Although CHN owns the property, Huckleberry House will handle on-site services.

Jerome DeCarlo, the property’s housing coordinator, has been working with Kendrick since early this year. He helped Kendrick into his current place at a Huckleberry House property on the Northside called Kenmore Square, and he’s shepherded him through the application process for the new apartment here. He swells with pride talking about Kendrick’s “dogged tenacity.”

Kendrick is looking forward to the move because he thinks it could improve his job prospects.

“There’s are a couple of good opportunities out here in this direction, toward this way,” Kendrick says. “So I’m kind of excited to be closer to somewhere that actually works for me.”

Jerome DeCarlo
Credit Nick Evans
Jerome DeCarlo

Long-term, Kendrick says he’s curious about getting into real estate. Picking up the thread, DeCarlo explains that residents at Marsh Brook will have access to training to pursue their goals.

“We have educational partners coming in, doing all types of programming,” DeCarlo says. “For instance, he’ll get to see what it takes to become a licensed real estate agent, what classes, what certifications, how much money he can expect to make, whether you’re an independent licensed real estate agent or you work for a company like HER Realtors, he’ll get to explore all of those opportunities.”

DeCarlo acknowledges that where they’re situated, on Columbus’ far southeast corner, transportation options can be limited. To address that, he says, they’re working with Youth Build Columbus to help connect residents with jobs and the transportation to get there. DeCarlo says they’ll also provide bus passes for residents who need them.

HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph Galvan says Marsh Brook is the kind of project he’d highlight for developers looking for a model to emulate. And he says there's great need for housing options like it. 

“We don’t have our act together by the time we’re 18 years old,” Galvan says. “And if you don’t have a place to stay, you can fall through the cracks, and once young people fall through the cracks, it’s hard for them to come back to be the best persons that they can.”

Galvan says he’s also pleased to see a certain amount of community buy-in. A small line of cars has formed out front with people dropping off donating move-in supplies.

Stephanie Gray Wilson gave sets of towels and some toilet paper.

“I know Columbus has a significant problem with youth experiencing homelessness, and if this is a way to transition out of that experience into something like to start the next positive chapter of their lives, I think that’s amazing," she said.

Kendrick is certainly thinking of his new home in those terms.

“I could see this being one of my key moments,” Kendrick says. “When I tell my life story, later on down the road to my grandkids or something, this is something that I know for sure is going to make a big impact in my life.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.