Reporting Mike Krauser
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The pastor of a West Woodlawn neighborhood church thinks he might be able to get off the roof of the old motel where he’s been camping for three months. He’s raised nearly enough money buy the building, so he can replace it with a community center.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church, has been camping out on the roof of the shuttered Super Motel at 6625. S. King Dr. for 93 days.
The motel, located across the street from Brooks’ church, was shut down over problems with drugs, prostitution and violence. Brooks has been trying to raise $450,000 to buy the shuttered motel and he said Thursday that he’s beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“More than ever, I can see it and I’ve got a sense of expectation and a big sense of hope,” Brooks said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Brooks helped to get the motel shut down. He wants to replace the building with a community center for the surrounding community and give kids a safe place to spend their free time and create retail opportunities for local residents.
He needs another $85,000 to meet his goal and come down from the roof for good.
“We have raised $365,000,” Brooks said, so the $450,000 goal doesn’t seem to be the same mountain he needed to climb when he started his campaign.
Brooks said an anonymous donor’s pledge to match donations this weekend should put him over the top.
His campaign hasn’t been without its discouraging moments, however, such as last week, when a teenager was shot a few blocks away. Last Thursday, an 18-year-old boy with whom the pastor was acquainted was a couple of blocks north of the motel, in the 6400 block of King Drive, when he was shot and wounded in the latest act of apparently random violence in the West Woodlawn neighborhood.
Brooks said that shooting illustrates the need for a community center to help keep kids off the streets.
“It’s discouraging at times, but it also authenticates why I’m up here on the roof, and it also helps to legitimize this cause and why it’s so much needed; because if we don’t enhance this community, if we don’t make this community better, it’s going to continue to be a killing field,” Brooks said.
Brooks has come down off the roof of the motel twice to bury two teens were shot and killed at a Church’s Chicken shop in Englewood. Before he went up on the roof, Brooks buried ten local teens lost to gun violence.
He said he thought he might have to come down a third time to set his teenage daughter straight.
“I just had her brought here,” he said.
Asked if he’s run out of roof metaphors for his sermons yet, Brooks said, “not yet. Every day, I’m tweeting. I give rooftop revelations.”
When he does raise the $450,000, he’ll move on to phase two of his plan: more fundraising to build the community center he is planning to build at the motel site.
But this time around, he doesn’t plan on camping out in another tent to raise the money for the community center.
“If it does involve a tent, it will not involve me living in it,” Brooks said.
But he did say there have been some benefits to living in a tent.
“The great thing I love about this tent, it’s become a think tank. You know, I’m able to think and I’m able to think clearly and write a lot, which is something I wasn’t able to do as much, being distracted by all the things that I have to do,” Brooks said. “But this has been a great opportunity to do a whole lot of thinking and a whole lot of writing.”
Brooks said he isn’t sure why he decided on camping on the roof, but he thinks it probably had something to do with the Occupy protests around the country. He initially intended to stay 21 days. Now, on day 93, he’s thankful for all of the donations and cards and letters.
Donations to Brooks’ campaign, Project HOOD (Helping Others Obtain Destiny), can be made by clicking here to visit his website.