The Augusta-Harrisburg Fuller Center for Housing Inc. aims to bring old times to a new age by revitalizing houses in Harrisburg.
"It's right in the middle of Summerville, downtown, the medical center and the river, so there's a lot of people who experience Harrisburg in some way and they want to see it the way it used to be, where people sat on the porches, they could walk down the street to the curb market and have great times with their neighbors," said Anne Catherine Murray, the president of the nonprofit which was organized earlier this year.
The organization developed a partnership with the Fuller Center, an international organization founded by Millard Fuller. The Fuller Center's mission is to eliminate poverty housing worldwide.
With majority of Harrisburg's houses being renter-occupied and 14 percent of the houses vacant, Murray said that they want to provide people with an opportunity to own a home.
They hope that in turn will foster pride in the community, she said.
"We want to be clear that our goal is not to gentrify the neighborhood or push out the people who already live there," she said. "We just want to give people the opportunity to own their own home there, and when you own a home you take pride it and want to make your community a better place."
The organization, which is also branded Turn Back the Block, has begun work on its first home in the 1500 block of Broad Street. The house, which is a duplex, is being turned into a single-family home.
There have been a few formal workdays already, called block parties, in which community volunteers work on rehabbing the house. Some volunteers have done work in between block parties, Murray said.
"I have never seen people take to a cause as they have to this," she said. "You mention Harrisburg and whether they grew up there or not, their eyes light up and they want to get involved. They want to donate. People have a real fondness in their hearts for this historic community, and that's the key to what I believe will be a big success down the line."
To apply for a home, applicants should be those who can't qualify for a conventional loan; be willing to put in 350 hours of work on the house, with 150 being contributed directly by the applicant and the family who will live in the household -- the remaining hours can be contributed by others the applicant recruits to help -- are able to make the down payment on the home; and be able to pay the mortgage.
"They will make low monthly payments and there's no interest," Murray said. "That's part of the whole Fuller Center philosophy. There are no interest mortgages."
Those who are selected must also participate in housing counseling.
"We don't want to set anyone up for failure so part of the process is to undergo housing counseling. We'll follow up with them throughout the process and once they have the house, make sure everything is going well," she said. "We don't want to saddle someone with something they can't handle."
Five years from now, the organization hopes to have made a big difference in the area, Murray said.
"Right now, it's starting on a house-by-house, block-by-block basis," she said. "We've talked about trying to accomplish 25 in five -- getting 25 houses rehabbed in five years. We want to get to the place where we are a well-known nonprofit in the area and something that people are proud to be a part of. We want to get homeowners in those homes. We want to be part of the change to once again make Harrisburg a safe and happy place to be."