With its loose wires, broken downspouts and dead vines, the vacant three-story apartment building in the Congress Heights neighborhood looks kind of spooky. But the construction workers toiling in hard hats throughout 3715 Second St. SE clearly indicate that the place will soon come alive.

Community of Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides housing for homeless people, officially launched the renovation of the Hope Apartments last month. Work is expected to be completed early next year, at which time there will be 10 new units for families with children.

Kelly Sweeney McShane, Community of Hope's executive director, said the building will house four three-bedroom and four two-bedroom units, and two apartments with one bedroom each. There also will be a computer lab, space for parenting classes and child care, a laundry room, offices for the 24-hour staff and a playground out back.

The building, she added, is for the "very, very low-income and homeless." Community of Hope plans to focus on families with heads of household who are in the early stages of substance abuse recovery. The plan is for them to stay in Hope Apartments for six months to a year before moving to more permanent accommodations. Given the number of families seeking housing and the backlog of requests, Sweeney McShane acknowledged that the 10 units are "a bit of a drop in the bucket."

She said the building was donated by Vernon Oakes, a former Community of Hope board member, and Chris Kerns, a current board member. The $2.2 million renovation is being backed by a variety of city, federal and private sponsors.

The units have "all of the creature-feature amenities inside," said Stanley Jackson, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, who attended the ceremony along with D.C. Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large) and others. "I'm proud of it."

-- Joe Davidson

Juliet Abrams of Community of Hope speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday for the Hope Apartments.Visitors inspect the progress of renovations at the building, in Congress Heights. Low-income residents and the homeless will reside there.