Why did we start Hands Up Ministries?
The Road to HUM
Cassie Matthew was a missionary to the poor, taking yearly trips to foreign countries. Over the years she began to realize that the money spent on overseas travel would be better spent by trusted local non profits or to employ locals.This revelation led Cassie to focusing on efforts here in her home community of Richmond, Virginia. Cassie was first invited to work at a local food pantry and then began a “Free Market” (where food pantry patrons could shop with ease for household items and clothing). After three years watching patrons repeatedly cycle through the pantry and market, a question nagged, “What is it you really need?” After building trust and asking important questions, true needs emerged:
“We want jobs.”
“We want to be heard.”
“We need affordable housing.”
Many of the underserved that Cassie served lived in boarding houses, exploited by slum lords who knew exactly what they could charge, based on someone’s fixed income or disability, leaving zero money after rent is paid on substandard housing.
Through Partners for Families North Side, Cassie and her husband, JT Matthew, began offering job workshops. Many clients were prior felons with few job prospects. Very few ever received callbacks. Additionally, without reliable housing, most clients lived in “survival” mode. Cassie and JT recognized the need to make jobs available for those with the desire to work; yet without housing, jobs became secondary.
HUM is Born
JT and Cassie began the process of creating a 501©3 in 2008, and became Hands Up Ministries (HUM) in 2009. They had learned that building relationships was essential. To provide affordable housing, HUM buys the homes in cash, rehabs them with volunteer help, and expects the potential homeowner to help with renovations. HUM identifies those who want homes, can work and pay their bills and rent with the possibility to purchase the home after one year. The HUM promise is to never raise the rent, but to encourage home ownership, and to maintain a beautiful home. Cassie and JT liquidated their own IRA, since HUM had no money. They have NOT regretted a moment since – HUM has allowed them to follow their passion, which has evolved into “homeownership for the working underserved.”
2011: The First HUM Home
In December of 2011, HUM purchased its first home, a 5 bedroom home for $24,000 cash, in need of a lot of rehab ($40,000). HUM was able to employ contractors from the clients and job seekers Cassie and JT had met over the years. Many have amazing skills but their felony records have made them “unemployable.” HUM provided these men a chance, fair wage, dignity, and grace.
HUM aims to make a dent in the poverty cycle through affordable housing. There have been triumphs and failures, evictions, heartbreaks, and success stories. HUM homes never exceed $50,000, with the aim of sustainability and affordable rent for tenants - about $550.00 each. By founding HUM, Cassie and JT have finally found their gifts - loving others by building relationships; building communities by providing affordable housing.