Last December I introduced you to the Johnsons, Alvin and Jeanine, who seemed destined to a life as tenants, without much hope of buying a home. They moved to Knoxville in 2020 and she took a position as a Housing Coordinator with C.O.N.N.E.C.T. Ministries, while Alvin worked with the Urban League as a Health Coordinator. The two face additional challenges, as each have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. If you missed that article, you can read their full stories here.
The two became connected to Renaissance Creations and learned of their mission to purchase and renovate dilapidated properties into comfortable homes. They help families like Alvin and Jeanine become homeowners, rather than permanent renters, by connecting them to those homes at below market prices. I spoke to Scott Branson, founder of the group at the time and he said, “Part of the vision of seeking the peace of the city would be health care, education, jobs, food. We knew how to work on houses . . . It’s about community restoration. That’s why we go after blighted and condemned houses.” He said a catch phrase they use is “let’s get the lights turned back on.”
When I first visited the future home for Alvin and Jeanine at 119 Cruze Street (1.5 miles from Gay Street to the east) in December, it had been emptied of the debris that had accumulated to such a degree, an entire bathroom was hidden, only to be discovered as garbage was removed. The previous owner had donated the property to the group. The home had been stripped to its studs and one wall removed to open the space up, leaving two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and a living area in the 1300+ square foot home.
Looking at those pictures, you can see how basic the structure had become. It was hard for me to imagine the beautiful home that would come. Jeanine could see it from the beginning. She said the porch and fireplaces sold her. Alvin said she always sees the best in any situation.
The hope was for the home to be finished by this month which just happened to be the month that Alvin and Jeanine’s lease was completed. That worked out perfectly, with an open house held this past Saturday and their official move-in day coming on April 28. That will be the first day that Marley (the kitten) and Rudy (the puppy) first get to see their new home.
As you can see from the photographs, the new home is beautiful. Renaissance did a wonderful (miraculous?) job restoring what had become a blighted property. As the organization points out, the entire community is a winner. A neighborhood looks better, a property is back on the tax rolls for the city, and, most importantly, a family has a place to call home.
The new home has an accessible ramp from the sidewalk up onto the porch. The fireplaces were retained, and a beautiful new tile was placed on the floor of each. The two-sided fireplace divides the dining and living areas while not blocking sightlines to leave a great open feel. The kitchen is filled with brand-new appliances and Alvin says that Jeanine is a gourmet cook who will make good use of the new cooking space.
It’s another happy ending for a family in need of a home in our city, thanks to Renaissance Creations. Learn more about them at that link (their website) and they are always open to more support, whether it is through volunteering or donations. There is a lot of discussion locally about the shortage of homes and their unaffordability. This is one of the local groups making it happen for families like Alvin and Jeanine.