Final details for home initiative being developed by city of Vicksburg, local NAACP

Published 3:47 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

The final details are still being worked out, but residents have been bombarding city and NAACP officials seeking information and trying to get on the list to get their homes rehabilitated or repaired under a joint initiative to improve substandard housing.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday approved an agreement with the NAACP and 18 other organizations to participate in the three-year program, which will be funded with American Recovery Plan Act funds.

The city is committing $300,000 a year in ARPA funds for the project to fund grants of between $8,000 and $15,000 for home repairs. The maximum income for eligibility is $50,000.

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“But if you do make that $50,000 income, you must provide proof of financial hardship,” said Jamma Williams, Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s constituent service officer who was appointed to oversee the program funds.

Under the program guidelines, Williams said, an applicant must own their own home and live inside the city limits. If the house meets program guidelines a city inspector will inspect the house before repairs begin and again after the work is completed. The bill for the work is then presented to the city purchasing department for payment.

Williams said Friday morning he had received 124 calls seeking help since the program was announced.

“They started calling at 5:05 (a.m.) Wednesday,” he said.

NAACP Vicksburg Branch President Bobbie Bingham Morrow said Thursday she had received 50 calls.

“I’m not complaining,” she said. “I welcome it; it shows there’s a need for it.”

Morrow said housing is one of the local chapter’s major initiatives. When local NAACP officials heard about the ARPA funding, she said, “I started doing the research on how they could be used; housing was one of them. I just started attending different seminars and town hall meetings and different functions to find out what people were doing and what we could do.”

The first year of the initiative will focus on three areas in the city — Marcus Bottom, Bowmar Avenue/Oak Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“What we are going to do is go out and seek residences that need help and then we’re going to work to put people in the community to work; some (projects) will be voluntary and some we will probably have to hire contractors to do the work,” Bingham said. “The NAACP is not taking in any funds because we are a nonprofit organization. We can work with the citizens to help find organizations and contractors to help them but we do need to have some processes in place that we are going to put together.”

She said former city housing director Gertrude Young is working with the NAACP and its partners to ensure the program stays within compliance.

“She is directing us, pulling together the contractors and working to put the program together,” she said.

The partners will work with the city and organizations in the community to help people with their problems, Bingham said, adding AmeriCorps has asked to participate.

“It’s like an old-fashioned barn raising where everybody in the community comes out to help somebody else,” she said.

Morrow said some houses have been selected and placed on a list that will be added to a waiting list of about 66 residents the city has from a previous housing rehabilitation program.

“We are going to use the $300,000 to work on the most needed — wherever there is a majority of the need — but we are starting with Marcus Bottom, Bowmar Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard,” she said. “If the individuals are not in those areas, we know that we’re not going to be able to provide them assistance with this $300,000.”

Presently, Morrow said, the NAACP and its partners are preparing to develop the final details.

“We have 18 other partners we are dealing with and we are going to sit down and work out all of the details,” she said. “We are going to go through this process and put some processes in place, develop forms people are going to have to fill out because for payment we’re going to be submitting the bills to the city.”

“I think it’s going to work,” Flaggs said of the program, adding another group has approached him about creating a garden district.

“I think it’s a great idea for people to get involved and wanting to help in the coordination of services in their community,” he said. “I’m elated by it; I’m ecstatic that we’ve got people now who are willing t get involved in not only city government but the services the city provides.”

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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