Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Archive for December, 2020

FL&L Recap: UM Law Fair Housing Clinic’s Eastmoor Estates Project

Posted on: December 8th, 2020 by elpayseu

This post is a recap of the 11/12/20 Faculty Lunch & Learn featuring the UM Law Fair Housing Clinic and the Eastmoor Estates Fair Housing Project.

For our final Faculty Lunch & Learn of the fall semester, UM Law professor and director of the UM Law Fair Housing Clinic, Desiree Hensley, along with partners and students, discussed their community engaged work with the Eastmoor Fair Housing Project, assisting low income tenants in improving their living conditions and securing affordable housing.

When she came to the University of Mississippi in 2009, Hensley was not expecting a project of such magnitude that was Eastmoor Estates. A subdivision of about 50 homes, Eastmoor Estates was in dire conditions. Raw sewage was in the streets and front yards; foundations were crumbling; faulty wiring was setting houses on fire. The conditions were harsh, and with the landlord unfairly evicting people, the tenants were powerless.

Hensley contacted the county supervisor Glen Donald about interviewing potential clients in the subdivision. She emphasized the importance of talking with the tenants. “We would never just load up in a car and show up to someone’s community,” Hensley said. In order to effectively help a community, it is important to do so cooperatively, according to Hensley. Within days, the clinic was receiving phone calls from Eastmoor tenants who wanted these problems solved, so Hensley and her students got to work.

The next year was filled with investigations, litigations, and settlements as Hensley and her students worked through the law to provide fair housing to the tenants of Eastmoor Estates. After suing the county, the city, and the landlord, the Eastmoor tenants were able to have their roads fixed, sewers repaired, and obtain deeds to their homes.

“That title to their homes is really important,” Hensley said, “because it gives them power, gives them ownership.” The homes that these tenants now owned, however, were still in very poor condition, a painful side effect of the litigation. However, since the project started in 2009, the Eastmoor Estates community had become very organized which made them a perfect site for a development project by Hope Enterprise Corporation, a local credit union and community development institution.

As part of a settlement from a separate institution, Hope Enterprise provided Eastmoor Estates with $3 million to rehabilitate the existing homes and replace the ones that were unsalvageable. With the help of Delta Design-Build, an equitable construction workshop based in Greenwood, Mississippi, 25 homes have been rehabilitated, nine have been replaced, and four modular homes have been installed.

This community engaged project has not only provided this community with fair housing but has also provided UM Law students with invaluable learning experiences. Dominique Douglas, who works closely with Hensley within the fair housing clinic, discussed the creativity it takes to interpret the law. “It’s not just cut and dry, black and white,” Douglas said, “You have to think about other solutions in order to help your client.” She also emphasizes the fulfillment she receives from doing community engaged work, a sentiment echoed by her classmates.

The students present also discussed the value of the experience they receive from the clinic. “It’s more personable than I was ever expecting.” Maggie Ogletree said, “When you’re picking up the phone and calling those clients and hearing the emotion in the their voices, it adds a whole new layer to the law school experience.”

The Office of Community Engagement is committed to elevating and celebrating community engaged projects like the Eastmoor Fair Housing Project that promote not only community engagement but also student learning and faculty research. As this session rounds out our fall semester, we are always looking for more opportunities to elevate community engagement and celebrate those working to make our communities great.

For more information on the law school’s Housing Clinic, you can visit their website, and be on the lookout for our next Faculty Lunch & Learn series in the spring. If you’d like to watch the recorded session, you can visit our YouTube page.

Community Chat – Rebecca Nelson

Posted on: December 4th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this special episode of Community Chats, Rebecca Nelson joins Erin to chat about available funding for nonprofits through the CARES Act and the CREATE Foundation. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting an economic burden on nonprofits across the country, these grants are providing reimbursement funds for any expenses or changes brought on by the pandemic. With just two weeks left to start the application process, Nelson encourages every nonprofit to apply for the $1.6 million still left to disperse.

Through the CREATE Foundation, this funding is available to organization falling into two categories: nonprofits and food pantries, and each organization can be awarded up to $12,000 in reimbursement funding. These grants are intended to reimburse nonprofits for any expenses or lost revenue that may have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from March 1 through December 30 such as cancelled fundraisers, new technology, or even cleaning supplies.

The deadline to create an account for the application is December 15, and Nelson encourages everyone to get that done as soon as possible along with the Eligibility Quiz. After completing registration, the application will be open until January 15.

For many, as Nelson can testify, the application process can be daunting. She wants people to know that this application process is quite easy, and she and others at the CREATE Foundation are ready and willing to provide assistance along the way. “We are all behind you, and we want you to reach our for help,” Nelson says. There is also a helpful instructional video available on the CREATE Foundation’s website.

“We want you to have the money,” Nelson says, “We want you to be able to continue to provide the services Mississippians depend on.” The grants are awarded on a first come first served basis, so the sooner, the better.

The application can be found at www.mscaresgrant.com, and you can reach Rebecca Nelson at rebecca@unitedwaynems.org or at (662)432-0158 for further assistance. You can also reach out to the Office of Community Engagement at engaged@olemiss.edu.

All Community Chats episodes can be found on our Facebook page, YouTube channel, or on your favorite podcast provider.

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