Finding a solution Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

In the 26 years that John Van Camp has served as executive director of Southwest Solutions, he has had a significant impact on southwest Detroit.

Van Camp has used his entrepreneurial skills to increase the effect that Southwest Solutions — a nonprofit with the goal of improving southwest Detroit and making a difference — has on the community.

As head of Southwest Solutions, Van Camp quickly realized that no matter how important the cause, without a strong organization, a nonprofit would quickly be out of business. To make sure that didn’t happen, he worked to become business savvy and bring finance and accounting personnel into the organization.

From his early start at Southwest, Van Camp decided the organization should do more than just offer counseling. He understood that the people who used the services, and the community as a whole, suffered from a poor economy, lack of housing and inadequate education, without any chance to reintegrate into society.

So in 1997, he hired a real estate developer to buy old, vacant housing and renovate properties to rent to low-income people. Since then, Southwest has converted 21 buildings, financed by selling tax credits to syndicators.

By converting the buildings, the nonprofit has helped reduce blight and given hope and a home to many.

He has also implemented other initiatives, including educating renters on how to become home owners. And working with banks, Southwest has helped many residents become apartment owners.

HOW TO REACH: Southwest Solutions, (313) 841-2595 or