$240,000 Habitat grant to help house 10 Osceola County homeless families
By Ken Jackson
Habitat for Humanity of Osceola County is attempting to speed up its plan to provide more low-income housing to those in need by opening a second retail outlet in the Kissimmee area.
News-Gazette Photo/Andrew Sullivan
Local business representatives and elected officials were in attendance Tuesday afternoon for a sneak preview of Habitat for Humanity Osceola’s newest ReStore facility, located near U.S. Highway 192 and Oak Street in Kissimmee. The store sells discounted used and/or refurbished home goods, with the proceeds funding other Habitat projects.
The newest ReStore operation, which takes in donations and sells them just like their new neighbor, Goodwill, swung its doors open Wednesday in the Mill Creek Mall at the intersection of U.S. Highway 192 and Oak Street.
The new store offers Habitat for Humanity over 14,000 square feet of retail and working space, a far bigger space than the 4,000 square feet they currently have at their original location on Orange Blossom Trail just south of Florida Hospital.
After receiving a $240,000 state grant to obtain and renovate 10 foreclosed properties in the area, and move currently homeless families into them, the organization hopes to match that amount through profits at the new store and investment from community partners, government and local business.
“We’ve already received nearly $15,000 just in private donations said Theresa Cusimano, a Habitat for Humanity Osceola volunteer.
James Cusimano, Theresa’s father and the Osceola outfit’s president of the board of directors, said at a sneak peak for local dignitaries Tuesday that the store retail outlet will help that
“This is the means to accomplishing an end, our mission,” he said. “We hope this store can lift us up to provide that affordable housing we need in our community. Beyond that, we hope to find a contact in the local banking industry to donate foreclosed homes, and we invite people to help support our community by shopping at ReStore, or donating the items that others shop for.”
The Mill Creek location will focus on housewares like living room and dining room furniture and cleaning supplies, and will housing Habitat for Humanity Osceola’s offices. The OBT location will cater more to contractors building fixtures and bathrooms and serve as warehousing space.
Board members who spoke Tuesday mentioned Osceola County’s high ranking on the national list of homeless individual and family population. Others who have been in the area for a long time and are sensitive to the housing need, like Kissimmee City Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, applaud and encourage Habitat’s efforts.
“Back in the 1990s when I was among my group of Realtors, we recognized the need for affordable housing. What about the people who couldn’t afford or qualify for a mortgage?” she said. “It’s exciting to see how far Habitat has come. This is an organization that’s never been about giving a handout, rather a hand-up.”
Cusimano said Habitat Osceola already has agreements to acquire four duplexes in the area, and will dip into the state grant to begin renovating them. The rest of the 10 homes will be acquired and fixed as other donations come in.
Organization officials said they are taking applications for families to move into those homes as they are completed. Families can apply online at www.habitatosceola.org or call 407-343-1900. Those who wish to donate to ReStore and need to arrange pickup of an item can call 407-343-1910.