ICCF Dares to Believe Housing Necessary for Life’s Success

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

jb225Jonathan Bradford will mark 34 years with ICCF in March 2015.Receiving Jesus' grace and acting as His ambassador to a harsh and indifferent world requires Christians to possess a clear-eyed understanding of why it's biblical to help the homeless find a better way of life, said Jonathan Bradford.

"God is indeed completely sovereign over all dimensions of human engagement and activity," said Bradford, president and CEO of Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), a nonprofit affordable housing provider that serves more than 2,500 families annually through its programs and services. "Christ's earthly ministry was preferential to the poor, the sick and for the outcast."

In other words, ICCF is charged with enhancing the Greater Grand Rapids community through a plethora of programs and services that help people get a firmer grasp on their finances, find affordable housing and, for others, not lose their homes to foreclosure. If mortgage payments have not been made, ICCF works with lending institutions to find an alterative to avoid eviction.

Transforming mission

Such a mission is, of course, easier said than done, but in the four decades of ICCF's existence, it's a track record that benefits the community beyond finding a home for people who've hit hard times.

"ICCF dares to believe housing is a necessary need for all of life's success," said Bradford. "It's very hard for a child to succeed with their homework when they're too cold or if the wife is always worrying about paying the landlord. It's hard for employees to be productive if they're constantly in fear of where they're kids are living. At ICCF, we have an assignment to bring the transforming power of the gospel, to be the heart and image bearer of Jesus Christ."

Part of being Christ's image bearer requires ICCF to be realistic. The staff knows some people have a hard time getting their arms around their finances. That's why it offers financial management classes that help people track where their money is going, how to reduce and eventually eliminate the crushing weight of credit card debt and how abiding by a budget can lead to financial freedom.

iccf225ICCF’s corporate offices have been housed in a neoclassical-style building that formerly was the D.A. Blodgett Home For Children since 2007.ICCF, which is located at 920 Cherry St. SE in the Grand Rapids neighborhood of East Hills, also builds and restores homes for low- and moderate- income residents — around 650 so far since its founding 40 years ago. It also owns rental properties.

Recent restoration examples includes the multi-use development called Tapestry Square, four blocks in the 100 block of Wealthy Street in Southeast Grand Rapids that include 32 apartments, retail stores and a full-service grocery store. The project is an effort to birth urban revitalization, said Bradford.

Another development on scattered properties in Grand Rapids includes renovating 60 rental housing units, new construction of 30 rental units, most of them located on sites formerly occupied by the now closed Madison Square Housing Co-op and reconstructing a 2,100-square foot building as a community center.

Moreover, the nonprofit shepherds people through a labyrinth of often confusing requirements necessary to purchase new and renovated homes.

For those who need emergency shelter, ICCF has Family Haven, which is comprised of five apartments that can accommodate homeless families free of charge for up to 30 days. Family Haven also offers financial counseling, employment assistance, a clothing pantry, food pantry, linen closet, Bible studies and children's activities. Family Haven's services remain available to families after they leave by acting as an advocate to ensure they remain in permanent housing.

"These are often multi-need families," said Bradford. "For example, a father returns from prison and the landlord has a no felon rule and they're kicked out with no place to go."

ICCF also offers foreclosure intervention that helps people keep their homes. An average of 70 percent of cases ICCF handles are because of "economic reversal" said Bradford, meaning there was a financial upheaval due to divorce, work hours reduced or unemployment because employers relocated to another state or country.

They're good people

"Around 55 to 60 percent of the cases, we are able to save homeowners from foreclosure if we can convince the lender these are good people," said Bradford. "They hit hard times because their employer moved to Mexico, and we can help them get a good job, or we find a grant that will pay the five payments they're behind or get a forbearance agreement."

ICCF's roots

ICCF was established four decades ago in a donated home that a local church renovated. Its corporate offices moved to its current location in 2007, which a neoclassical-style building that formerly was the D.A. Blodgett Home For Children that opened in 1908 to care for orphans.

Perceptions of who is homeless have changed over time, said Bradford.

"Traditionally, homelessness equates with a guy on South Division holding a bottle of booze in a bag," he said. "Now, it's young people and families. More jobs since the Great Recession have been created but the big questions are where are the jobs? Is there transportation to the jobs? Who takes care of the kids while parents are at work? We have a system that looking at things really only one dimensionally."

For more information, call ICCF at (616) 336-9333 or go to www.iccf.org.
Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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