The biggest “Kindness Project” Project that we have, is one we rarely speak about. It’s not a very “sexy” project, it’s results are not always clear-cut, and it’s a tough one to have a "rah rah" rally about it. Freedom House’s low rental housing project Freedom Gate Apartments has taken more time, work, effort and financial faith than anything else Freedom House has ever done in our nearly 13 years. By a LONG SHOT. And what was it all for? 15 affordable-living apartments for people to live in. And it's been worth it.
178 Market Street is the spot many will remember as the home of The Rainforest restaurant. It was a blue bar when we purchased it 13 years ago. Still looking like a nightclub, this was the setting for the early years of Freedom House. I have fond memories of our humble beginnings in it. But the more folks we met trapped in destructive cycles of poverty and addiction on that part of Market Street, the more we realized that our call to serve our fellow man in practical ways was a real thing. It extended beyond traditional the church walls. In fact in this case, it meant tearing them down and putting in bedrooms.
We were reminded of our need to intentionally meet physical needs AS WELL AS the spiritual needs. The two go hand in hand. At Freedom House we have two rules. Love God and Love People. The rest is gravy. And a big need for the people in our neighborhood was a home that they could afford and where they could be safe and stable. We met people who we were wanting to break free of cycles but couldn’t find a place to live and the creation of Freedom Gate would facilitate that desire. So we said yes. After a 1.5 million dollar building project, Freedom Gate Apartments opened in the spring of 2010. While it sometimes seems like a drop in the bucket to say that we have 15 families using the space at a time… those are 15 real families. It’s been a street culture-changer in a way that even a church building wasn’t doing. That’s because it melt a felt-need on that part of the street and in our city. And it’s been worth it.
As inglorious as an apartment complex as it can seem... it matters. I call it inglorious because it really is. Owning an apartment building has created a plethora of dynamics that we didn't expect, left us as the resolver of issues we never thought even existed and has given our administrator nightmares. And it's been worth it.
Even with the grants we received and the AMAZING partnership/friendship with GK York’s Gabriel Kirchberger (without whom the project would have never even gotten off the ground), it's a financial load to carry. A big one for a church. And it’s been worth it. One day, after many years of quietly operating this apartment (often living on financial faith to make it work if we're honest) it will turn a profit too. And that money will go towards funding MORE Kindness Project outreaches while still accomplishing Freedom Gate’s house goal.
But right now it's work. It’s work that few people know about and a project that has way fewer exciting, motivating stories than a Frosty Fest, Captain Kindness, Living Nativity or Flippin Friday. But as it grows, we hope to continue to make Freedom Gate Apartments an exceptional living experience.
Freedom House is ordinary people who believe that kindness can transform a city, BY good INTO good. The door is open and we’d love to have you come by.