Nonprofit modifies mission


After recognizing the changing needs of its clients, a housing-focused nonprofit in Muskegon is undergoing a complete reorganization.

Solid Rock Housing Support, formerly Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity, changed its name and cut ties from the international organization.

The decision to part ways is on good terms, said Christi Burmeister, community relations manager for Solid Rock, but having an affiliation with Habitat for Humanity means following guidelines surrounding services and community involvement that sometimes were too limiting.

Habitat for Humanity focuses on constructing new houses. When the Muskegon organization was founded 30 years ago, that was needed, Burmeister said. The organization built more than 100 homes since 1985.

There still is a need for safe, affordable housing, but because Muskegon has so many old houses, the need for renovation has grown as the years have gone on, Burmeister said.

“We don't want the people living in them to have to leave their home because they can't afford the upkeep and they can't afford to keep it safe and secure,” she said. “If they lose the house or have to move out, then it's another empty home that's just kind of sitting there.”

So, Solid Rock now focuses on repairing and rehabbing existing houses for low- to moderate-income clients with the goal of helping them keep their homes for as long as possible.

“If, down the line, we see maybe there is a need for some new construction or different types of housing or transitional housing, we now have the flexibility and the freedom to be able to do that,” Burmeister said. “We can kind of change and grow as the needs of the county change.”

To start, the goal is to focus mostly on repairs and do one or two full rehabilitations in a year.

With more flexible operations, the nonprofit also will offer additional related services, Burmeister said. The organization plans to work with clients to help build up their credit so they can purchase the homes from Solid Rock, as well as eventually offer homeownership and home repair classes.

She said the plan is to focus on construction during the warmer months and then focus on the classes during the offseason.

Materials for new houses have significantly increased in price over the year, Burmeister said, so the organization was doing additional repair projects even before the transition. Solid Rock worked on about 10 houses within the past few months.

“We can do a lot more with the money and funds we have through home repair and rehabbing existing homes than we can with new home construction,” she said. “So, we're still able to help people but help more people in a year than we could if we just build one or two new homes every year.”

Burmeister said Solid Rock received nearly 100 applications from people seeking home repairs. The majority were put on a waitlist, so Solid Rock is continuously seeking donors to sponsor homes or donate materials to help take people off that waitlist.

This year, the nonprofit is hoping to serve about 130 people, or about 30 houses, with increased goals each year according to population increase estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The nonprofit still is in the process of completing construction assessments for the projects. A lot of those costs are kept in-house through the staff-licensed contractor or volunteers.

Furniture from its three thrift stores, formerly known as ReStores, sometimes can be given to clients. They’re located at 10130 U.S. 31 in Montague, 280 Ottawa St. in Muskegon and 4345 Airline Road in Norton Shores.

“We try to keep the costs as low as possible to help the maximum amount of people that we can every year,” Burmeister said.

She said the board did a lot of research before making the decision, including talking with other affiliates in the state that made similar moves.

Solid Rock has the same tax ID, the same leadership and is in the same headquarters, at 280 Ottawa St.

Solid Rock is searching for its next executive director. The board may choose an interim or select a permanent position, depending on their options, Burmeister said.

Solid Rock’s new logo, featuring a backpacker climbing a mountain, is meant to show that every home is a client’s “foundation for the climb to the top of their life mountain through the fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.”

Now that Solid Rock is an independent organization, Burmeister said leadership would like to partner more with other organizations in the community, which historically was more difficult to do.

With a revitalization of downtown Muskegon underway, she said she believes it important to maintain the areas just outside that area, as well, so that’s where she hopes Solid Rock can play a significant role.

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