MUSCATINE, Iowa–Since their inception, Muscatine Center for Social Action has worked to find creative and innovative ways to address housing insecurity. In January, they first shared plans to renovate two houses in downtown Muscatine to rent out to those in need of low-cost housing. In April, they partnered with First Presbyterian Church to renovate a single family rental home. In May, a grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust allowed them to continue these efforts and to start renovating a multifamily rental unit in downtown Muscatine as well.
As MCSA continues working to make more affordable housing available, they realized they would need more oversight to make sure they thought out future housing initiatives thoroughly and to make sure volunteers and contractors did good work on any properties under their care. Late this spring, MCSA brought Christopher Shoemaker, a recent Iowa State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, on to do just that as their first housing development specialist.
While volunteering at MCSA’s food pantry, some staff members invited Shoemaker to come look at one of the properties they had purchased and planned to restore. When he saw it, it opened his eyes to the dilapidated conditions people struggling to find affordable housing could find themselves in. He remembers, “as I was walking through the home, I witnessed some unthinkable scenes which opened my eyes to the horrible living conditions that are occurring all over Muscatine and are being ignored and need addressed.” Wanting to help make living conditions better for those in need, Shoemaker went to MCSA Executive Director Scott Dahlke and shared his passion for this work with him. Impressed by his enthusiasm and potential, Dahlke offered him the housing development specialist position only two days later.
As MCSA’s housing development specialist, Shoemake plays a part in the whole process of coming up with and executing new housing initiatives. From helping identify new projects to work on or existing homes to repair, to planning for work, to overseeing its execution and adherence to grant guidelines, Shomemaker has an important role in moving MCSA’s housing program forward and making sure everything gets done right.
Through this work, Shoemaker feels excited to help people who cannot currently afford or find good quality housing take care of their need for safe shelter. He also hopes that MCSA’s work will inspire both individuals and other local non-profits to continue the work of providing good quality housing for all. “We will begin by improving a few homes in a selected neighborhood; in turn, this will cause a ripple effect within the community,” he explained.