First residents move into the new community for homeless youth

Huckleberry House’s new Kenmore Square community will house 54 youth ages 18-24

Huckleberry House opens new Kenmore Square/

Columbus, OH (March 12, 2020) – A new community collaboration will offer Columbus-area youth experiencing homelessness a new place to call home. Huckleberry House purchased a 56-unit property in the Linden neighborhood of Columbus on March 6. Residents will begin moving in on March 17. Kenmore Square was a HUD property sold to the youth service organization by Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). According to Huckleberry House Executive Director Sonya Thesing, the purchase was the result of mutually beneficial negotiations between Huckleberry House and CMHA.

“The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is delighted to partner with Huckleberry House on this innovative housing solution that repurposed a property we owned into a haven of hope for homeless youth,” said Charles Hillman, CMHA president and CEO.

CMHA is financing the purchase with a zero-interest, ten-year note. The purchase price of $740,000 was the lowest appraisal price and was accepted because the property is being sold to a non-profit that serves a population that is a priority for HUD and CMHA.

“There is a great need for housing units for programs that help youth transition from homelessness to independent living,” Thesing said. “Kenmore Square is the perfect environment for building a supportive community where youth can learn the skills they need to achieve their goals.”

It is estimated that 3,000 young ages 14-24 will experience homelessness this year, with another 4,000 at imminent risk of becoming homeless. The recent Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) HUD grant infused Columbus with funds to house youth experiencing homelessness. YHDP participating organizations have had difficulty identifying affordable units for their youth clients. Kenmore Square will house a portion of Huckleberry House’s 45-unit Transitional Living Program. The Homeless Families Foundation will master lease units for its combination rapid rehousing – transitional living program, and Community Housing Network will master lease units to house permanent supportive housing clients.

Huckleberry House

“Kenmore Square provides an excellent opportunity for several of our partners to collaborate on housing and services for youth,” said Michelle Heritage, executive director of Community Shelter Board. “Together, they are building an important community so that more young people have a place to call home.”

According to Thesing, all residents of Kenmore Square will receive support services from Huckleberry House staff and will be able to participate in community activities.

One unit will house participants of Impact Community Action’s Build Up program, which provides a mixture of classroom instruction and hands-on work to help prepare participants for the construction field. Kenmore Square will serve as a teaching property and program participants will provide 24-hour and preventive maintenance.

“We are excited about the innovative approach to community we can build at Kenmore Square,” Thesing said. “For the 18- to 24-year olds we will be welcoming to Kenmore, success depends on more than a roof over their heads. Since 1990, our Transitional Living Program has been using an integrated approach to life skills using developmentally appropriate case management. We know that creating community is key to long term success for the youth we serve.”

Thesing said several area businesses have made donations to help renovate buildings and create a true neighborhood for residents. L Brands associates have worked to redesign the community spaces. Greenberg Farrow donated architectural services and Danis Construction is donating all materials and labor to renovate the community building in the center of Kenmore Square.