This is a post about two different ideas. Idea One: Christian Social Venture Capital Group where Christians pool money together to loan at interest to people who want to make significant improvements to their neighborhoods. (this must be happening in other locations) Idea 2: Homeless Hot Shops– where homeless create art and then sell it. (This idea is happening in Mexico and other places, from what I’ve been told)
Idea 1: Christian Social Venture Capital. I’ve been fixing up houses and buildings for about 10 years. Usually they are kind of run down, and in disrepair. Those kinds of buildings are a blight on the neighborhood. Nothing saps morale and pride in a neighborhood like a boarded up house or building. I talk to others who are interested in doing such projects. But its difficult especially in the current market for enterprising home fixers to get loans from the bank. Usually 20% down is expected. This is where the Social Venture Capital group would come in.
Lots of Christians have money, but don’t live where the poor live. These Christians put their money in CDs which gain 2% interest (give or take). There are also Christians who are interested in fixing up houses in depressed areas and helping improve communities, but they don’t have the capital to do it. So the social venture capital group is a way to connect the capital from those Christians with money but without time or connection to do the transformative work to those Christians who lack the moneay but have the connections and time to do the transformative work. Its not habitat– the venture capital group doesn’t build houses, or own property– they simply pool their money together and loan it to people who know how to do such things.
Those Christians who agree to put their money in this venture capital fund would receive, for example, 4% interest to loan their money to the home-fixer. The collateral would be the house. So if the home fixer wanted to buy a house for 50,000, the bank would want 10,000 as 20% downpayment. The social venture capital funders would loan the entrepreneur the 10,000 at 4%, and take second position– that means if in the unfortunate situation that the entrepreneur failed and the project did not work, and the house was sold, whatever money came from the sale would go first to pay the bank, and secondly the venture capital lenders. Normally the Christians with money give their money to the bank, who gives them 2% interest, and then the bank lends it to the entrepreneur for 7%.
This model does a direct loan from the Christian with money who would rather a. have his money used for socially beneficial projects and b. get better interest return on his money. The entreprenuer also wins because they get a lower interest rate on the 20% and they also then can get the loan from the bank (so the bank actually wins here too because they will have more people able to get loans from them due to the venture capital group).
The main obstacles to making this idea come to fruition are: a. figuring out how to have oversight of the funds and the decisionmaking process as to who to fund and how to work out the arrangments of repayment etc. B. Finding qualified entrepreneurs who have a vision for renovating areas of town which need it for the betterment of the neighborhood.
The second idea is to have a community homeless hotshops– hotshops in omaha is a very cool artists collective space where artists create their art and sell it. The idea for this community homeless art center would be to help homeless either hone or learn some skills– whether it be painting, sculpture, carving, making purses out of old bags, woodworking (birdhouses, etc), or even glassmaking– I can imagine someone making a set of 12 cool glasses out of 12 empty miller-light bottles, for example. Then these artists would sell their wares at the community art center too.
People would want to buy these art pieces because a. they would be cool and b. it would help homeless people. It would help homeless people because a. it would give them something to do where they could make something to be proud of and b. it would provide them some money. The main obstacles to overcome for this project would be a. people to help train the homeless in some of these skills b. a place to make this happen.
There are lots of possibilities like this staring us in the face. The obstacles keeping it from happening are not really that huge. I’m curious if others know of examples of either of these two ideas happening already somewhere… There are lots of ways to use what we have to transform our communities– not only spiritually, but also physically. There are also ways to help people use the life they have more fruitfully and creatively for the fuller glory of God. In whatever way we bring about this kind of fruit for Christs sake, it is worship and it is done to honor God.