The homeless population in Syracuse, NY, officially decreased by three Wednesday.
It took about 4,600 hours of volunteer time, help from more than 50 companies and $107,000 in in-kind services, but Ed, Frank and Pat — homeless at points in their lives — now share a home of their own.
The ribbon was officially cut Wednesday morning outside the home, which underwent extensive renovation in the past nine months. The residents were selected by the Rescue Mission, which operates a men’s shelter and provides other services just a block away.
“It’s so exciting to see the work these men have done on their lives, how they’re really taken control of their lives, established incomes and become very self-sufficient,” Rescue Mission CEO Alan Thornton said. “We’re really excited to be celebrating that with them today.”
Ed, Frank and Pat actually moved in Aug. 28, and welcomed about 70 guests to their open house after Wednesday’s brief ceremony under a sweltering sun. The first floor has a good-size living room, dining room and a kitchen that leads out onto a back deck, complete with a grill.
Pat led me on a tour of the upstairs, where each man has his own bedroom. He said the three have known each other for a while and get along well, despite the “nuances” each brings to the group.
Inside and out, the place looks nothing like it did earlier this year. Flowers bloom out front, and grass seed waits to take hold in dirt that once was strewn with syringes. As one speaker said, the structure has been transformed from “an eyesore to an asset.”
I had the privilege of helping to restore the house on two visits with co-workers from Upstate Medical University, in April and again in June. We cleaned up the yard, hauled old roofing material to the trash, power-washed the exterior, swept floors, painted doors and more.
On our first visit, the amount of work needed seemed insurmountable and I wondered why the house hadn’t been torn down. But at the end of six hours or so, we made enough progress to be encouraged. On the second visit, it felt like the renovation was in the home stretch.
All the while, the overriding feeling was that it would take an incredible amount of work by a lot of people to make the house into anything that could be lived in.
It’s more than that. It’s home.