Impact Urban America (IUA) is a faith-based, social-entrepreneurial organization that provides community services to the inner city of San Diego through relationships with churches, communities and corporations. The services provided are housing, jobs, and life skills training to people that do not have this access through traditional means.
Impact Urban America initially started in 1992, when Estean Lenyoun, a pastor at Marantha Chapel in San Diego, realized that his desire to serve people extended beyond the steps of the local church. With a background in commercial real estate and a desire to help inner city residents, he and Rosie Grier formed “Rosie Grier’s American Neighborhood Enterprises.” The organization purchased a complex of homes and apartments in inner San Diego, an area well known for crime and drugs. This complex, called Vista Grande, was cleaned up and cleaned out by working with community leaders and people with a heart for change. Vista Grande became a model for the rehabilitation of substandard housing and inner city rejuvenation.
Having seen success in housing and neighborhood rehabilitation, the vision for a broader community service began developing. In 1998, Impact Urban America was formed to go beyond housing and neighborhood issues. Realizing that housing meets a basic need and that independence and self-supporting individuals within a community are a long-term answer to many social problems, IUA began to address additional needs through jobs, life skills training and home ownership opportunities.
Believing that home ownership is part of the American dream, housing opportunities were researched. At the same time, home ownership is a prelude to disappointment and failure without the ability to make a monthly payment, maintain a property, or build equity through improvements. As a result, the first major focus for IUA was to provide jobs. The thought is that when a person has a job, he has the beginning for security and success. While there are many other important elements to a successful life, jobs in the inner city are lacking, as evidenced by high unemployment rates in poorer areas. By bringing jobs to the inner city, pride in accomplishment and security/success patterns occur.
IUA works with local businesses to fill positions using residents of the inner cities. There are unique challenges to this work. As people were employed, the need for more assistance became clear. Some people were not accustomed to simple tasks that must be performed in order to be productive in a work environment. As a result, IUA began skills training – both in practical work skills (i.e. computer skills) and also in life skills (i.e. alarm clocks and bus passes).
In the year 2000, IUA had more than $1 million in revenues, and has put more than 1,000 people to work in San Diego County since inception. IUA has associated itself with well known individuals who bring tremendous leadership skills in diverse disciplines. It is the combination of church, community and entrepreneurs that make this organization successful. IUA is a nonprofit corporation that is run in a for-profit manner to demonstrate self-sufficiency and income generation so as to support expansion.