Building a Future in Claysburg: Spring Hill Station Project Helping to Solve Housing Crunch
The Impactful Story of the First Families of the Spring Hill Station Project
“One day, that empty street is going to be filled with kids on bikes and people grilling.”
It’s the American Dream and over the next two years, it will become a reality for 11 families in Southern Indiana.
Habitat for Humanity – Clark & Floyd Counties, Indiana’s Spring Hill Station Project is taking a typical single house-building project and turning it into a community. Located near 12th and Riddle St. in the Claysburg Neighborhood in Jeffersonville, an 11-home cul-de-sac of Habitat builds will soon be one of the first of its kind in Southern Indiana. Homeowners will be comprised of financially educated, invested, and empowered families, most of whom will be owning a house for the first time in their lives.
The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana (CFSI) became involved with the project thanks, in part, to direct feedback from Clark and Floyd County residents. The organization’s Priorities for Progress: Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana 2021 resource explored the community’s aspirations to address the area’s highest priorities and greatest challenges, and access to affordable housing sat near the top of the region’s wish list.
After learning about the project, CFSI awarded a $100,000 discretionary grant to the organization in support of the neighborhood. And thanks to Habitat’s partnership with the Jeffersonville Housing Authority, the new collection of homes will serve up to 19 adults and their children. With the first two builds of the 11-home neighborhood nearing completion, two families are anticipating a September move-in date.
For participants, the home-buying process offered by Habitat for Humanity is a life-changing opportunity to improve generational wealth. And for Claysburg residents, this new housing addition will be yet another vibrant investment in the future of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
But for Robynn Webb and Dorcas Marrero, these new homes signify the start of an empowering new journey for their families.
A Dream Comes Full Circle
Robynn Webb knows a thing or two about Habitat for Humanity. After all, she has spent close to a decade of her life involved in some way with the organization.
As a little girl growing up in Jeffersonville, some of Robynn’s family members consistently volunteered at Habitat for Humanity builds in Southern Indiana. So naturally, she found herself on job sites, willing to do any job they could (safely) hand off to a grade school student.
“My stepmother went through the program when I was younger, so I would volunteer to help her whenever I could,” Robynn says. “It was so much fun helping to build other people’s houses. I specifically remember telling myself that I wanted to do this when I got older.”
As time passed and Robynn started her own family, she admittedly drifted away from Habitat. But following a recent divorce, she was re-introduced to the organization that was so instrumental in her upbringing.
“After my split, I told myself that I wanted to get a house. I tried all the other avenues, like getting a loan for example. But they said I didn’t have good enough credit,” Robynn recalls. “My mom suggested that I apply for Habitat, and I just froze. Like, I had actually forgotten about Habitat!”
Without delay, Robynn filled out the application, which was eventually accepted.
“When they called to tell me I was selected, it didn’t register at first,” Robynn says, “Once it finally did, it was such an amazing feeling.”
Now, Robynn and her three children – two boys (14 & 7 years) and one girl (5 years) – are preparing to move into their newly-constructed house on Riddle Street. Until that time comes, it hasn’t stopped the family from dreaming about layout scenarios.
“All three of the kids will have their own rooms, which they’re extremely excited about. My 14-year-old tried to claim the biggest bedroom, but I think he chose the one closest to the door. So, we’ll see how that goes,” Robynn says, smiling.
While her 7- and 5-year-old may be too young to fully understand their new environment, Robynn knows what owning a house will mean for her oldest son.
“I don’t think my young ones really understand what this all took,” Robynn says. “But my oldest is realizing that we’re going to have a house and it’s going to be ours. He knows it means that he’s not going to need to make new friends every two years because our lease was up, and we had to move. Like, this place is ours. He’s already talking about putting up a basketball goal. I just know it means a lot to him.”
Going through this home-building project once more, Robynn has re-discovered her passion of helping people. And she hopes that her passion might rub off on her children, too.
“This whole experience has come full circle for me,” Robynn says. “I never thought that I would be doing the same thing I did as a kid with my kids. And now, I’m having the opportunity to help build other houses as an adult. It’s funny how God does that. It was like we sowed the seed earlier, and now we can finally reap the benefits.”
An Outlet for Hope
Dorcas Marrero remembers the day she picked up the phone and called a help hotline. As a single mother to two boys under seven years old, and completely out of her element in Southern Indiana, Dorcas needed support.
After listening to her plight, the hotline suggested a local organization who might be able to help Dorcas with the resources she needed: St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.
“What resulted in my divorce is what got me to St. Elizabeth,” Dorcas says. “I heard they were an agency in the area that helped people like myself with small children. They provided us with transitional housing when a lot of other housing options just weren’t working out. I did not know the capacity in which they could help me – I just knew I needed an immediate escape from what I was going through.”
While Dorcas was able to find temporary relief for her and her children, she still faced an uphill battle. Born and raised in the Carolinas, Dorcas lived in Miami before moving to Southern Indiana in 2016. Now that she was on her own, she knew little of the area and had no contacts she could reach out to.
“Moving from a place like Miami to Jeffersonville, it was a big culture shock in every way, shape, and form. I didn’t have Mom’s house or an aunt’s house to go to,” Dorcas recalls. “I’ve been all over the place, and I like that I have lived in all those areas. But when I was moving here, I didn’t have any communities where I felt like I belonged. The agencies and the people I have met along the way have really given me that sense of community that I didn’t have before.”
When Dorcas was eventually introduced to Habitat for Humanity, little did she know how big of a role the organization would play in her new start. During introductory classes and seminars to prepare for the builds, Dorcas met Robynn Webb and the two hit it off.
“We met through the Habitat community, and we just clicked instantly, which is something very easy to do with someone like Robynn,” Dorcas says. “We shared a lot in common and we are around the same age. Over time, we just kind of built our own little community because since then, I’ve met friends of hers and we all just start hanging out together. It was like an instant connection, as if we had known each other longer. I haven’t always had that.”
For Dorcas, Robynn’s friendship was a glimpse into the community that awaited her in Southern Indiana. Each time a new group of volunteers has shown up to donate their time and efforts to building her house, she has been surprised by their willingness to help their neighbors.
“I have just been in constant awe of the love from the community from day one,” Dorcas says. “If you just go about your daily life, you don’t really have a chance to see it. But this program has given me an opportunity to see what a community is with my own eyes. We always have volunteers: morning, afternoon, evenings. I just couldn’t believe that these people want to be here under their own will, completely voluntarily. It opened my eyes to notice other organizations that are just so loving in this area.”
Seeing others give back has also allowed Dorcas to do some self-reflection on her future philanthropy, both with Habitat and beyond.
“I have given future volunteer work a lot of thought recently because we’re nearing the end of this project. I’ve enjoyed being so involved and want to continue to sign up for even more volunteer opportunities,” Dorcas says. “It creates a desire inside of you once you do it. Someday, I want to be able to help the community of women who are single mothers, or who come from situations like domestic violence. I would like for that to be my focus.”
Ultimately, Dorcas’ new house represents a fresh new start in her journey. Even though her kids are young, she wants them to be proud of all the hard work their mom is doing to provide them with a better life.
“For me, the biggest thing has been how empowering this whole process has been,” Dorcas says. “I come from a background with some toxic cycles I wanted to break. And for my kids, especially because they are boys, I am trying to get them to see past gender roles and stigmas. So, it has been empowering for them to see me work through the process. I can’t say I did it on my own – but for them, this is something they can see that their mom did. That’s been incredibly important for me.”
The Future of Spring Hill Station
For years, the Claysburg Neighborhood in Jeffersonville was an overlooked section of the city. The area lies northwest of the city’s central business district and covers just under one square mile, with many of its residents having life-long connections to the area.
Thanks to a recent revitalization push to improve the quality of life in this area, new hope is forming. Affordable housing units are being updated to a tune of $11.9 million. Construction of pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and developments will also help enhance the area. A community garden is thriving on the grounds of the Community Action of Southern Indiana.
The city of Jeffersonville hopes the beautification project will breathe new life into one of the region’s oldest neighborhoods. And local organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana are doing their part to build on that momentum.
While the success of this project has yet to be realized, Robynn is certain that not only will it be successful, but that other communities in our region should considered looking into this as a solution for the housing crunch plaguing so many Hoosiers.
“Communities like this are needed in Southern Indiana,” Robynn says. “The neighborhood I grew up was in more suburban, and not everybody was as friendly because they didn’t know everyone. Being able to live in a cul-de-sac like this, where everybody can communicate and help one another, is something that is really needed. It builds the morale of the people and makes our community more attractive, but more importantly, it lets everyone know that we’re all part of a team.”
As for the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, the $100,000 discretionary grant continues what the organization has been doing since 1991: supporting area nonprofit organizations that help Clark and Floyd County residents. But more importantly, this grant allows CFSI to continue being a community leader by awarding funding where it’s needed in our community the most.
“The lack of available affordable homes in Southern Indiana is a major issue affecting our residents, their quality of life, and their hopes of creating wealth for their families,” says Linda Speed, president and CEO for the Community Foundation. “We hope this project will pull families in the Claysburg neighborhood out of the rental vortex, put them into affordable housing, and begin building generational wealth.”