More money allocated to help homes in low income areas of Vicksburg

Published 9:51 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vicksburg housing director Gertrude Young has her own way to describe the success of Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, grants programs in rehabilitating homes in Marcus Bottom, “We’re taking the bottom and we’re raising Marcus Bottom to the top.”

For several years, the city of Vicksburg has been helping senior citizens and homeowners in low income areas remain in their homes through grant programs provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank, which was established by Congress to provide funding programs to help the elderly and homeowners in low income areas.

It’s a program that has helped many residents in Marcus Bottom like Erma Humes by providing funds to make necessary repairs to her home on Bowmar Street.

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“I really needed the help,” Humes said. “My Sheetrock was coming down in my bedroom, and my living room the wall was bowing out, so it needed to be fixed. When they took Sheetrock down, the ceiling started coming down and they fixed that. My home looks really nice. They painted outside, painted the living room and bedroom, and replaced the water heater.

“I am so grateful for this allowing us to have this. I’ve seen this work I’m so grateful. I’ll tell anybody, if it’s offered, take it.”

Humes told her story to a group of about 20 local and Federal Home Loan Bank officials and residents at a program in Marcus Bottom announcing the award of a $180,000 FHLB grant in cooperation with BancorpSouth to repair more homes in the area.

The program included a tour of homes in Marcus Bottom that were repaired with money from past programs.

“We’re excited and honored to be a part of the program with the city of Vicksburg and the Federal Home Loan Bank so we can help areas that are considered disadvantaged. It’s an opportunity to revitalize parts of our community, and we’re glad we had that chance,” BancorpSouth Vicksburg president Mark Buys said.

BancorpSouth Bank vice president and community development grant specialist Evelyn Edwards said working with FHLB Dallas helps BancorpSouth Bank support the needs of our communities. “Our efforts involve collaborating with partners like FHLB to help redevelop and revitalize neighborhoods such as Marcus Bottom,” she said.

She added the Affordable Housing Program helps families continue to live on land that has been passed down from generation to generation.

“There’s a lot of family-owned land that people maintain because it’s been passed down from generation to generation,” she said. “Through the AHP, we’re helping them keep their dream and inheritance.”

U.S. Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss., said the program was a good example of public/private partnerships and what they can do.

“The single largest investment the majority of people will ever make is, if they have the opportunity, to own their own home,” he said. He commended city officials for “looking forward down the road, understanding that communities are better when homeowners live in those communities.”

“The good news is today; the bad news is we do this every so often and as often as we can, because the need is so great. Unfortunately I don’t have officials in other areas who are as visionary as your local officials are in Vicksburg.”

“People’s standard of living and quality of life are lifted in Vicksburg through housing,” Mayor George Flaggs said. “That $180,000 will help renovate 25 homes in the community, $35,000 each. It may not look like a lot of money to you, but that’s a lot of money to someone who can’t afford to rehab their house, even if it’s nothing more than just fixing a roof.”

Young said the city has since received another $85,000 in Federal Home Loan Bank to rehabilitate 17 more homes, and 10 have already been done. She also said the city has also received a $500,000 state Home Grant to build three new houses and rehabilitate five.

Humes was not the only Marcus Bottom homeowner to tell her story.

Lois Price said her home was in desperate need of repair.

“This is the house I grew up in,” she said as she led a tour around her house on Lane Street. “You know, age makes a house fall down, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Her roof, Price said, was in bad shape and the bannisters for her steps were on the ground. The roof was repaired, her ceilings replaced, she received a new water heater and other repairs.”

When Young approached her about the program, “I thought God has sent me answer. I felt the lord has blessed me, because I was not able to do it. Financially I was not able to it. I could not believe they were going to do the things they said they were going to do. It’s a blessing; there’s no other way to describe it.”

Had she not received the help, “You’re probably talking about a lot, because this house would have been demolished. The roof would have caved in on me and I probably would have been homeless.”

“I was just so grateful I was chosen for this program, and I see all the work being done in this neighborhood and I’m just glad I was one of the ones who benefitted from it.”

Theresa Ann Williams’ home on Military Avenue, received a new porch and windows, and the ceilings and floors repaired and her house was painted.

“I was surprised (to be approached) and I was very grateful. I was very thankful and I appreciate everything they did.”

Young said the grant program goes back to former housing directors Beatrice Moore and Leona Stringer, who were able use another Home Loan Bank program, the Special Needs Assistance Program.

“We just happened to be able to do more outside the box, compared what was done prior,” she said. “At this moment, we’re using six different contractors, and we’re going to do 52 houses, including three new builds.”

She said the program has helped the neighborhood, adding the work has inspired other homeowners to clean and improve their property.

“It’s people who are in great need,” Young Said. “Elderly people are the main ones on fixed incomes and do not have the money to do maintenance. It’s great to have people like Federal Home Bank to help, and the people never have to pay the funds back. They just do a deed restriction not to sell the home.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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