‘What a glorious day’

By Megan Erbacher

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said he couldn’t be any prouder of the city than he is on days like May 14.

On a sunny, warm day, the mayor stood on the porch of a home under construction in the Jacobsville neighborhood along with Brad Ellsworth, Vectren director of external affairs; Sharon Burns, Catholic Charities executive director; Beth Folz, Habitat for Humanity Evansville executive director; Josh Case, with HOPE of Evansville; and others to launch a Vectren-funded workforce housing initiative.

Tiffany S., left, and her daughter Quenteria stand on the front porch of their future home in Evansville’s Jacobsville neighborhood and listen to Mayor Llyod Winnecke talk about the Jacobsville Work Force Housing Initiative. As part of a $5.5 million investment in affordable housing across the city, CenterPoint Energy company Vectren is providing $1 million for
the initiative. The Message photo by Tim Lilley.

“What a glorious day,” Winnecke said. “I talk a lot about the positive progress Evansville is making and this is one small example.”

Vectren, a CenterPoint Energy company, launched a 5-year, $5.5 million workforce housing investment in Evansville on May 14. More than 60 people gathered in the 200 block of East Oregon Street in the Jacobsville neighborhood to kick off the initiative, which includes an initial $1 million allocation toward single-family home construction, repair and community development beginning this spring in Jacobsville. The partnership is between Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity of Evansville and HOPE of Evansville.

The remaining $4.5 million from Vectren will support multi-family workforce housing throughout Evansville.

Ellsworth, Vectren director of external affairs, said the company is thrilled to be a part of the housing solution in the Jacobsville neighborhood to give people a decent place to live and opportunities to live better and to work and play in their neighborhoods.

The Jacobsville Workforce Housing Partnership initiative will result in 26 new homes, numerous repair projects for owner-occupied homes and improve the quality of life in the Jacobsville neighborhood over the next four years.

Burns said Catholic Charities is honored to be a part of the initiative, and grateful to the Vectren Foundation and community partners. Burns said the plan is to enhance and increase workforce housing available in Jacobsville.

“Our task is to help homeowners in the neighborhood remain in safe and secure housing by providing exterior repair and maintenance services through our Handy Helpers Home Repair program,” she said. “In addition to providing repair and maintenance services, Handy Helpers is a job training program, and we’d welcome the opportunity to assist Jacobsville residents in acquiring the skills and experience they need to enter or reenter the local labor force. Our goal is to help all create lives that work, families that are functional at home and able to find and maintain self-sustaining employment.”

Burns explained workforce housing is housing that is not only affordable to community members but close in location to jobs because many people don’t have transportation to get to work. She said they know through Handy Helpers Home Repair that many individuals do best when they work and live in the same neighborhood because they’re able to navigate the community a little more efficiently and effectively for their families.

Burns said Handy Helpers will be able to offer repairs in Jacobsville over the next four years through the “generous” Vectren donation.

Winnecke, Burns, other community partners and volunteers helped raise a wall on the first house being built because of the collaboration. The Habitat house will be the future home of Tiffany S. and her daughter Quenteria.

“This project demonstrates what can happen when all of us pull together,” Winnecke said.

Evansville is no different than many cities, Winnecke said: “We need more affordable housing." He said it is estimated Evansville is about 1,500 to 3,000 units short of meeting affordable housing needs in the community.

“This illustrates the power of land banking once blighted property,” Winnecke said. “All of the sites where we are building are lots that came from our blight elimination program. This is affirmation that land banking works. It’s affirmation that land banking is a critical key to our city as we try to rebuild the city’s housing stock.”