Columbus spending thousands to refurbish abandoned homes

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A once boarded-up home on Chicago Avenue in West Columbus is now a newly renovated home serving a much-needed purpose.

"It's a wonderful place," said Jaiza Page, Columbus City council member.

The home was one of three that have been renovated as part of the Learning Skills to Lift Neighborhoods grant program, where the city awards up to $20,000 to local non-profits that take on the responsibility of restoring abandoned or blighted buildings across the city.

The organizations hire neighborhood kids or young adults to assist in the renovation under the supervision of construction professionals.

"Just imagine being an 18-year-old young person and not really sure about your future. But, you can walk down the street and say: "I helped create this," said Page.

The duplex on Chicago Ave is being rented by Lower Lights Ministries, a non-profit that offers housing and recovery resources for women looking to overcome addiction.

"They stay here and then as they go through phases, they go through counseling, they do AA meetings, bible study, trauma formed groups," said Heidi Williams, operations director for the organization.

Williams knows how beneficial the program can be because she was once in it.

"I was addicted to opioids," she said. "I was using pills and heroin. I had just hit rock bottom," said the mother of 5.

After spending two years in prison, Williams says she entered the Lower Lights Rachel House program and it transformed her life. One year later, they offered her a job with the organization.

"It only takes that little seed to be planted, and something beautiful has already come out of that," she said.

The city of Columbus will begin accepting new applications for the grant on June 25. In total, the city will award $130,000 in grant money for the program.