VENICE — A single father with joint custody of three sons, Derek Wilson, has done his best to keep his family under the roof of a three-bedroom house off Fruitville Road, even though the landlord has raised his rent to $1,750 per month.
But when Wilson, a business solutions consultant for ADT, was notified that his landlord didn’t want to renew his lease, he found nowhere else within reach.
But on Saturday afternoon, Wilson began moving into one of 10 Venice cottages owned by Family Promise of South Sarasota County and used for the nonprofit’s Pathways Home program.
“I was very lucky and blessed to be a part of this because honestly I don’t know what I would have done without it,” said Wilson, 34, who later added that he was in tears. when he found out he had qualified. for Pathways Home.
“I just didn’t expect to get this kind of help,” he said. “I had been a self-made man, doing my own stuff most of my life.
“The family is there when it can be; That being said, I’m also the type of guy who doesn’t ask for help because I think I can do it on my own.
For next year, the Pathways Home chalet means a safe base and stable environment for her three children – 8-year-old twins Koan Rush and Jason Sage, and 6-year-old Kado Link.
Wilson’s experience highlights the far-reaching impacts the Sarasota-Bradenton area’s lack of affordable housing has on individual and family life and its ripple effect on the fabric of life and global economy.
The three children will occupy a triple bunk bed in the first floor bedroom, while he will sleep in the second floor bedroom.
“It will be able to accommodate my family,” he added. “I will be able to install them and put things back where they belong.”
Prior to Wilson’s rush for stable housing, the children were enrolled in Oak Park Elementary School, as all three are children with special needs.
More recently, they stayed with their mother in Manatee County and attended school there.
Family Promise is already working with the Sarasota County School District to return the children to their home school.
A start for Pathways Home
Wilson and her children are the second family to move into the South Sarasota County Pathways Home program since the nonprofit completed the $2.5 million purchase of the 10 cottages in late January.
Jennifer Fagenbaum, executive director of Family Promise of South Sarasota County, said a third family could move in later this week.
Supply chain issues – including a shortage of basic items like blinds – have slowed things down. Only three of the 10 blind sets have arrived; the rest are out of stock.
Some of them arrived damaged, including one of the sets destined for Wilson’s house. His mother and grandmother are both expert seamstresses, while his best friend’s mother, Victor Kaminskiy, owns North Port Alterations. So he hopes for help sewing curtains for the widows and the sliding glass door that leads to the side yard.
In addition to aesthetic and privacy purposes, blinds and curtains help keep homes cool and reduce the need for air conditioning and, ideally, reduce the cost of electricity.
Fagenbaum also wants to make a good impression on the neighbors.
The Pathways Home project is an expansion of the mission of Family Promise of South Sarasota County, which provides shelter, meals and social services to families in need of housing.
To learn more about the association and its programs, go to https://familypromisessc.org.
Fagenbaum also noted that he was continuing his efforts to find permanent homes for some potential Pathways Home families.
“We had a family last month that we were going to move into one, a house opened up in Venetian Walk – which is permanently affordable,” Fagenbaum said. “So rather than putting it here for a year and hoping another spot comes up there, we just put them in there.”
The mother of another potential family has a Section 8 bond and recently found a landlord willing to help her.
“She found a landlord who would work with her — the house just has to pass the HUD inspection,” Fagenbaum said.
These families are still part of the nonprofit’s “Keeping the Promise” follow-up program and work monthly with case managers to ensure they are on the path to stability.
The Pathways Home program, which is the first of its kind run by a local nonprofit, offers participants everything from financial counseling to education, so they can qualify for better-paying jobs.
Participants pay a program fee of $600 per month to rent a one-bedroom cottage or $800 per month for a two-bedroom cottage.
These rates are set to allow families to accumulate savings, while working towards a stable future and eventually moving into a market-rate home.
Last month, when the Sarasota County Commission approved spending $25 million in federal pandemic relief funds to support affordable housing and workforce development, that included $500,000 for Family Promise to buy an existing three-bedroom house with a stepmother’s apartment that is unofficially the grounds of the Parkside Cottages complex.
This existing home stood on the 2.5 acre lot used by developer Mike Miller for the cottage complex.
Fagenbaum said that basically means two more houses that can be used, with the three-bedroom house being able to serve as a shelter for a larger family.
She still aims to stagger the move-in schedule, so eventually three families will move out of Pathways Home and be able to live on their own each term.
The nonprofit hopes to purchase homes that can be rented at below market rates for permanent workforce housing, but Fagenbaum said the nonprofit needs to pay off Pathways Home’s debt first.
Family Promise could not use a conventional mortgage due to the requirement to charge tenants market rate rent.
A private investor provided a low-interest loan of up to $1.5 million to help close the sale.
Family Promise has made quarterly interest payments on the private loan and is on track to make a $200,000 principal payment this month.
If two big pledges arrive, the nonprofit could be halfway through debt repayment this fall.
Otherwise, Fagenbaum estimates it will take about two years to raise the funds to own Parkside Cottages free and clear.
“To be fiscally responsible, I can’t start another project with this debt still there,” Fagenbaum said.
Hope for the future
Wilson worked for several years at Men’s Wearhouse, then sold health insurance for a while before his job at ADT, and thought he was on the right path to becoming an owner before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I first started working just over two years ago I was like, ‘I’m finally a little better off financially, I feel like I should be able to apply for a home loan. ‘” Wilson said.
The banks told him they would prefer at least two years of paperwork to commission-based sales work on a mortgage application.
Meanwhile, as his landlord raised the rent, Wilson did his best to hustle at work and make ends meet.
Wilson had about two months’ notice that his lease would not be renewed. With landlords looking for tenants earning three times base rent, he found nothing.
“Two thousand monthly rent, you must be making $67,000 a year, I wasn’t at that level,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t provide that.”
Wilson found out about Pathways Home because ADT manages the security system for South Sarasota County’s Family Promise, although at first he didn’t think his client would be a housing solution.
“When he came here to watch them, his boss let me know he was sleeping on a friend’s couch,” Fagenbaum said.
Fagenbaum noted that the nonprofit worked with Wilson for several other options — including a short-term hotel stay — before determining Pathways Home was its best option.
“It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time. It’s really lucky that I was here,” Wilson said.
“It was a very humbling experience,” he added. “I was able to focus on things I couldn’t do before, forget things that didn’t matter, maybe so much.
“I was able to focus on work and getting things done – focus on success and it will come.”
Earle Kimel primarily covers southern Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.