YPSILANTI, MI – Amelia Reese’s pride in her home is evident from the first step inside.
There’s the living room’s tree wall art. And the brightly-colored jewel stickers adorning a wall in her 8-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
But the washer and dryer, conveniently located beside her bedroom upstairs, and the guest bathroom on the lower level are Reese’s favorite features in her two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom apartment in Ypsilanti’s New Parkridge Homes.
These are luxuries Reese didn’t have when she first moved into the subsidized housing complex in 2012, when the original 70-year-old Parkridge apartments were still standing and in a state of disrepair.
In January, the Ypsilanti Housing Commission unveiled an $18 million total rebuild of 86 affordable housing units and dubbed the complex New Parkridge.
The apartments are reserved for people making 60 percent of the area median income or less, which is $55,750 for a family of four in Washtenaw County.
For Reese, 28, the upgrade in her home motivated her to make other changes in her life.
“Before the remodel, it was a nasty neighborhood and it was kind of like the mood draws you down. It doesn’t give you a lot of enthusiasm about life,” she said. “After the remodel, I figured that something had to change. … I didn’t want to continue to be the same person in a new place.”
The Ypsilanti Housing Commission recently received a merit award for program innovation from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for its work to revitalize New Parkridge Homes.
Support services available at New Parkridge include childcare, assistance pursuing higher education or employment and health and wellness initiatives, all coordinated by on-site social workers.
The goal is to help the residents achieve self-sufficiency, said Zac Fosler, Ypsilanti Housing Commission executive director
“These agencies have put a lot of thought, creativity and hard work into helping residents improve their lives and into revitalizing their local communities,” Carl S. Richie Jr., president of the national housing redevelopment organization, said in a press release.
Reese is an example of what’s possible when New Parkridge residents take advantage of the support and programming now available to them.
Reese decided to pursue a pharmacy tech certificate from Washtenaw Community College when her daughter, Khloe Porter, started kindergarten in 2015.
A single mother, she took prerequisite courses part-time while continuing to work full-time as a McDonald’s shift leader.
Juggling her work and class schedule proved challenging, so Reese sought out a work-study opportunity at the Parkridge Community Center, which is supported by WCC. Reese could walk to her job there, study during downtime at work, and the center provided afterschool childcare for Khloe.
After completing an unpaid externship at Michigan Medicine and earning her pharmacy tech certificate in April, Reese was hired full time at Michigan Medicine in June.
She’s already got her sights set on her next goals for herself and Khloe, and she’s turning to New Parkridge programs for assistance.
Reese would like to own her own home in five years, so she’s planning to enroll in the housing commission’s family empowerment program, which is coordinated by Eastern Michigan University and helps families establish a savings account and provides other resources.
While Reese is grateful for the home and support she’s found at New Parkridge, she eventually wants to move on so someone else can have the same opportunities she’s had.
“I think it’s cool that they will help you move along,” she said. “Some people use this low-income threshold to survive long-term, and I think it’s a transitional process. … I’m just here for the time being until I’m able to transition.”