CHEYENNE, Wyo.— Pastor of Grace United Methodist, Jon Laughlin, who saw the need of working people for low-income housing, decided to renovate rental units near his house on his own to provide affordable and decent house for those are facing financial difficulties.
The original plan was to help homeless families but Laughlin and his wife Judi soon saw greater needs for low-income housing which made them to change the plan.
"People aren’t getting livable wages," says Laughlin. Without this option, some people would be "sleeping in cars, with no place to go."
In August 2002, the couple decided to purchase the property for the housing which was once an alcohol treatment center. They renamed it "Brave Heart Plaza Apartments," reflecting their brave action for taking on such a project, which touched the heart of their appraisal.
Laughlin is a veteran renovator with 20 years of experience as a Volunteer in Mission and he calls his wife "a decorator by nature." Both were unsure of how much work the 12 units would require.
Laughlin explained the horrible condition of the unit which was like a “flophouse” - the plumbing and electricity had not been updated since 1940 and the plaster walls needed repair.
With the help of a second mortgage on their home, they spent $45,000 for general apartment restoration and with the grant of $18,000 from the city of Cheyenne, they fixed the exterior. The apartment is furnished with basic amenities including all utility costs. helped with exterior repairs. Each apartment is furnished with basic amenities, and rent includes all utility costs.
Compare to average rent of $750 a month in the area, the rent of Brave Heart Plaza Apartments is only $350, including utilities, which is very affordable amount for airmen like Dana Oguma who receives only $375 as the off-base housing allowance. A number of Laughlin’s tenants come from the nearby Warren Air Force base.
Laughlin hopes to have all 12 units restored by January 2004.
Laughlins also conduct "a dumpster ministry," by serving those people who search trash cans off the streets. They offer them food and aluminum cans and other scraps they can sell.
The best reward for their labor is "knowing people have a nice, clean place to stay and are treated with decency," Laughlin says.
"If we’re related," he says, "we need to look out for each other." He is hoping to see more people join for the relief of housing crisis.