Program Director, Kelly Jennings and Development Director, Kelly Jackson kindly welcomed me to Greccio to give me more information about their program. Jackson explained that Greccio owns 23 properties throughout Colorado Springs that add up to over 500 apartments. Apartments can be rented below the market rate thanks to donors as well as federal and local funding. This also allows Greccio to reinvest any gains back into their programming. Just like any other property lease, residents go through an application process and must meet certain requirements to be able to rent from Greccio.
Greccio's rental program works in tandem with their Resource and Opportunity Center. Residents can find a variety resources ranging from financial literacy classes to a food pantry. All of these program are provided to help residents break the cycle of poverty. Jackson insisted that Greccio's resource center is unique in comparison to other affordable housing programs because it is not a requirement for renters to use the resources. However, many of the residents do. Some of these resources also help to create a sense of community. Things like on-site community meals and the fall pumpkin festival get residents involved with their neighbors to create a supportive and engaged community.
The 2013 Bike & Build grant helped Greccio establish community gardens in some of their complexes. The gardens serve as an important community resource for residents to learn about growing plants and food as well as getting to know their neighbors. I hope to visit one of the community gardens before my trip.
Jackson explained that Greccio is in currently working on a capital campaign for a new Resident Resource Center. She took me on a tour of their small facility, where staff members were doubled and tripled up in office space. Classes like cooking skills and budgeting are often held off-site because of the lack of space in their current building. Jackson told me that a larger resource center would allow for residents to have a "one stop shop" where they could attend classes, pick up food from the food pantry, get help with their rental questions, and much more.
My conversation with Jackson and Jennings was most informative to me in seeing the full perspective of affordable housing agencies and their roles within an entire system. Homeless shelters are the first step in housing, offering emergency and transitional living spaces. Organizations like Greccio are a second step. They offer a place for residents with low-income where they can continue to strive for a higher income and/or stability. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are the next step where an individual or family is now stable enough to become a homeowner. Jackson pointed out that every story is different. For an elderly couple living on a fixed income, finding stable housing with Greccio and renting an apartment for several years is a success story. Alternatively, a single mother who worked part-time and rented from Greccio for 1-year until she found a steady full-time job is also a success story.
I could go on and on about Greccio because I learned so much! However, I hope to learn a bit more from a resident's perspective soon. Next week, I have an interview scheduled with Greccio's Volunteer of the Year and a current renter, Loy. More to come on that soon!