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One Last, Year-End Look at the Passing Parade of People in the News : No Place Like Home

December 26, 1985|BEVERLY BEYETTE

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in the last several months. Among them:

--Hollywood's Masquers Club, which because of declining funds sold its building and moved.

--Jimmy and Ricky Sperry, blinded in an accident 11 years ago, who received cornea transplants in August.

--Balu Natarajan, who triumphed over 167 other youngsters to win the National Spelling Bee in June.

In late 1984, View visited Sisters Joanna Bramble and Pat Sears in West Oakland, where the nuns had established Jubilee West, an independent interracial, interdenominational effort to provide decent affordable housing in an impoverished neighborhood.

Their first purchase was a vacant, vandalized duplex that, they had been advised, "anybody'd be a stark raving lunatic to buy." Buy it they did, with $45,000 begged and borrowed. The nuns were in the real estate business, buying "wrecks" and "messes"--many of them neglected Victorians--to rehabilitate and remodel.

Soon, they owned 31 units. In June, Jubilee West started buying an additional 20 fixer-uppers, an acquisition made possible by a deferred loan of $300,000 in block-grant money from Oakland. The first three families were expected to be in by the end of the year. With an assist from the federal government, Jubilee West is able to offer the units to tenants for 30% of their income.

That means that families for whom rats, roaches and two mice to a trap were a reality at $450 a month can now live in clean, decent housing with updated kitchens and baths for one-fourth that amount.

At the same time Jubilee West is syndicating the 31 units it already owned and selling to a limited partnership, of which the organization and the Baltimore-based Enterprise Foundation are general partners. Twenty-two investors are needed and half have been found, said Bramble, mentioning the tax benefits to "socially concerned investors."

Funds for Jobs, Homes

The syndication was undertaken to raise money to expand Jubilee West's jobs and outreach program and to finance future housing purchases. "Most government funding is running out," Bramble said, "and foundations are hard put for money."

She is proudest, perhaps, of the success of the jobs program. In 1984, she said, Jubilee West met its goal of 10 jobs a month and then some, placing 81 people. This year's projection is for more than 185 jobs. "If we can get people working," said Bramble, "they don't need to be subsidized."

From the beginning Jubilee West--an effort in which the nuns, members of the order of St. Joseph of Carondolet, work and live alongside the people they serve--has stressed tenant involvement. To be eligible for housing, families must put in 150 volunteer hours in neighborhood fix-up projects.

The idea apparently works. Only two of the original 31 tenants have moved out voluntarily and that was because they got better-paying jobs. "We're real pleased about that," Bramble said. "We think that's the whole point." Two have been evicted for non-payment and, she said, "the rest are all happily here."

She is pleased, too, at the increasing involvement of tenants and outreach volunteers. "Our aim," Bramble said, "is empowering, rather than handing people stuff." The neighborhood is going up in value (a mixed blessing, as it may attract more speculators) and, she said, "People who live here are taking better care of what they have."

For the time being, Jubilee West is solvent. Recently, there have been significant grants from the McKesson Foundation for a summer and after-school recreation program for children, and others from the Cowell, San Francisco, Stulsaft, Hearst, Clorox, Haas and the East Bay Community foundations.

"It's very encouraging," said Bramble, "but this (program) eats money." As of now, she projected, "we probably have about a half-year's expenses for 1986. But we're solvent, amazingly."

Having once observed that "there's a very fine line between faith and insanity," she continues to have faith.

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