CLEVELAND — Big developments for the now-defunct Lorain County Habitat for Humanity. New management is moving in following a News 5 investigation into claims of misuse of Habitat money, among other things.
“I used to buy things over there. It was a good thing to have that store open,” said Lorain County resident Luis Padua. He’s lamenting the Lorain County Habitat store being closed for months now when local customers want it.
“They need something that they cannot pay $100, $200 they could get it over there for $25, $50,” he told us.
GREATER CLE HABITAT STEPPING IN
“Everyone, everyone has a right to safe, affordable housing,” said John Habat. He’s the President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. He said his organization will take over operations after everything shut down in Lorain County earlier this year. “Habitat International was committed to making sure that Lorain County residents would have a Habitat presence,” Habat said.
You might remember our previous reporting that showed a former Lorain County Habitat leader refusing to answer our questions after complaints were filed with the Ohio Attorney General. That person has not been charged, so we are not revealing the person’s name, but our sources tell us the AG is still conducting a criminal investigation into claims of misuse of Habitat money among other things.
“What your coverage showed was there’s a good reason to have investigative journalism,” said Habat.
He told us the paperwork for a transfer of assets, including the ReStore in Amherst, residential plots, and mortgages for Habitat homes in Lorain County, is just about finished.
FORMER BOARD SILENT BUT 'COOPERATIVE'
The former board for the Lorain County Habitat is not answering any of our questions, but Habat said members have been in constant communication for Cleveland’s planned takeover.
“They’ve been very embracing, and very cooperative,” Habat told us.
He said, generally, a board is in charge of the financial and operational integrity of the organization. “But at times, the board can only be as responsible as the information provided to them,” said Habat. “I don’t know what happened there.”
What we do know is that Cleveland’s Habitat wants to get the ReStore back up and running in early November. One representative said they went a couple weeks ago to see the store and customers were yanking on the doors. Unlocking the place is a priority.
“And very quickly get that store reopened, because I know it’s important for so many people in Lorain County as our ReStore is so important here (in Cleveland),” said Habat.
IT'S A FIRST FOR GREATER CLE HABITAT
It is the first time in Cleveland Habitat’s history that it will be expanding into another county.
“And the goal there is to be as efficient as possible in the use of resources to deliver our products,” Habat said.
It’s news Padua likes to hear.
“If they have the same stuff and the same values that we had before with the prices and everything, I think it is good!” said Padua.
The Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity board will officially approve the expansion into Lorain County during its next meeting on September 19.