Philanthropic investments fuel 180° Properties’ regional expansion to create jobs and protect homes

CHICAGO — With almost $1 million in philanthropic support over the past twelve months, 180° Properties expands property preservation services throughout the Lake Michigan region, including Gary, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

With this expansion, 180° Properties has now created 49 jobs and has completed 24,982 work orders to protect and maintain 5,970 homes throughout the region. The enterprise now provides property preservation services in 18 counties: Cook, DuPage, McHenry, Lake IL, Will, Kane, DeKalb, Grundy, Kankakee, Livingston, Iroquois, Ford, Lake IN, Newton, Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, and Milwaukee.

180° Properties seeks to turn around both houses and people. Darnella Phillips, one of the first employees, has taken advantage of the opportunity. “I made a 180 degree turnaround,” she says. “I am not going back, no matter what.”

Like many of her colleagues, Darnella works to overcome her past in order to create a better life for her children.

“I came from the streets, rough areas, crime, and I grew up in it,” she said. “I have four daughters and don’t want them to grow up the way I did. I want them to prosper and do much, much, much greater things than I could possibly imagine.”

180° Properties was launched by two not-for-profit organizations, Mercy Housing Lakefront and The Cara Program, in Chicago. The enterprise benefits from Mercy Housing Lakefront’s property maintenance and The Cara Program’s employment training expertise. Together, the partners have created a premier property preservation enterprise dedicated to community revitalization and job creation.

The program hires difficult-to-employ individuals to clean-up and maintain rental and vacant homes. Crew members paint, provide lawn care, board-up broken windows, clean out trash and provide many other services to maintain these homes and revitalize neighborhoods.

“When the economic crash hit, people and neighborhoods were devastated,” said Cindy Holler, president of Mercy Housing Lakefront.  “We knew we had to respond to provide opportunities and rebuild healthy communities.”

Darnella believes the company is turning around communities. “I know lots of people who appreciate what we do when we go into these properties and board them up, and clean them out. The neighbors, especially the more established ones, are so grateful.”

While 180° Properties is a self-sustaining social enterprise, expansion requires capital. Each new three-person crew must be hired, trained, and equipped with a van, tools, and supplies before they can begin to preserve homes and generate revenue. As a result, 180° Properties’ regional expansion would not have been possible without philanthropic support.

During the past twelve months, nearly $1 million in philanthropic support was provided by several organizations, including founding funder JPMorgan Chase Foundation. “Mercy Housing and Cara saw the result of the recession on our neighborhoods and found an opportunity,” said Ron Zinnerman, Vice President of Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. “We are proud to support an initiative that helps both people and communities get a fresh start.”

Additional philanthropic supporters include Bank of America Foundation, Citi Foundation, Deutsche Bank, Denis B. Pierce, Enterprise Community Partners, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Helen Bader Foundation, Housing Partnership Network, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, State Farm, U.S. Bancorp Foundation, and Wells Fargo.

About Mercy Housing Lakefront
In response to the economic crash and housing crisis, Mercy Housing is working with hundreds of partners to fulfill our ten year Moving Forward Together campaign to build or preserve 7,500 affordable homes, create 8,000 jobs, and ultimately prevent homelessness for 20,000 people in the Chicago and Milwaukee region. This work includes the efforts of two sister organizations. The first is Mercy Housing Lakefront (MHL) which has developed and currently manages 24 affordable rental properties enabling 3,400 people to live in hope.  The second is Mercy Portfolio Services (MPS) which was created to address the foreclosure crisis. MPS manages Chicago’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program with a goal to rehab and reoccupy thousands of foreclosures. In addition, MPS recently established a $100 million Mortgage Resolution Fund to help thousands of Illinois families save their homes from foreclosure. MHL and MPS are part of Mercy Housing, a national organization that has developed, preserved, or financed more than 41,700 affordable homes.

About The Cara Program
The Cara Program prepares and inspires motivated individuals to break the cycles of homelessness and poverty, transform their lives, strengthen communities, and forge paths to real and lasting success. Throughout their rigorous training, The Cara Program empowers their students (working-age adults) to overcome fears, build esteem, and tap their personal capacity to lead. Once described as a ‘recovery program for failure addiction’, The Cara Program leverages an innovative and unconventional curriculum to not only help individuals substantively build their skills in current technology, customer service, personal integrity, professionalism and polish in an interview, but to more importantly dive deeply into the harder skills of teamwork, communication, forgiveness, and the power of building a support network on which to draw strength both in good times and in bad. Since 1991, The Cara Program has placed over 3,500 at-risk individuals into permanent, quality jobs at average wages more the $2.50 higher than Illinois minimum wage and 75% one-year retention rates (25 points higher than national one-year employment retention rates for similar industries).