Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

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 – Forrest Jenkins

Posted on: July 8th, 2020 by elpayseu

“Look around you: there are always helpers in your community who are trying to do good things.” -Forrest Jenkins

For this installment of Community Chats, we are joined by Forrest Jenkins, president of LOU-Home, Inc. She discusses her passion for affordable housing and community involvement as well as some of the greatest challenges LOU-Home, Inc. is currently facing. Tune in to learn about the needs of our community regarding housing and current projects and developments of LOU-Home, Inc.

Forrest was born and raised “right down the road” in Pontotoc, MS and graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. After practicing law at a housing clinic in Oxford, she joined the board of directors of LOU-Home, Inc. in 2014. She saw the issues plaguing the LOU community due to the lack of affordable housing. In regards to the work they do, Forrest credits the work of community members. “Things don’t happen overnight,” she says, “It takes a lot of eyes and a lot of hands to get things to move.” Looking to the future, LOU-Home, Inc. is always looking to develop more housing and provide housing services to the community.

LOU-Home, Inc. coordinates with the community and local government to increase the availability and affordability of homes for qualified buyers who otherwise could not acquire these resources. They also provide services to these buyers including credit workshops and individual counseling. Currently, there is a lack of available land in the LOU community, and the land that is available may not be attainable to LOU-Home, Inc. due to legal barriers. Forrest urges any community members who can help materially to do so. This can be anything from a monetary donation to property that can be leveraged to begin more development. Forrest expands on how you can get involved in the episode.

Watch on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast episode.

Community Chat – Michael Gerberi

Posted on: June 26th, 2020 by elpayseu

“You don’t need to look outside the county, the state, or even the country to aid the poor; they’re our neighbors.” -Michael Gerberi

Michael Gerberi joins us for this episode of Community Chats to talk about how Habitat for Humanity is helping aid an ever-growing need for affordable housing. He discusses some of the challenges local chapters of Habitat are facing and the greatest rewards that come from the work they do. Tune in to learn more about what Habitat does and how you can get involved and support local projects.

After living all over the country while enlisted in the U.S. Navy and running a medical practice in Illinois, Michael Gerberi retired in Oxford in 2015 to be central to his family. He volunteers at Baptist Hospital where his colleagues suggested he get involved with Habitat, and after a year he took the position of president. Michael says he does the work because he sees the need in the community. “It’s astonishing to see these living conditions of people in our community,” Michael says. Michael ends the episode by putting out a call to the community – students especially – to give their time and talents to those in need in our community. “These people are our neighbors,” Michael says, urging community members to recognize the need in their own back yard.

Habitat is a national nonprofit that builds and restores homes for those in need. This includes families, elderly citizens, and areas affected by natural disasters. The Lafayette County Habitat for Humanity affiliate focuses on those with fixed and limited incomes such as the elderly and households with multiple or itinerant residents. One of the biggest challenges they currently face, besides sufficient funding, is the lack of available and affordable land. To offset this issue, Habitat has reverted to restoring existing homes in the county. Their workforce is heavily dependent on volunteers, most of whom are provided by the Knights of Columbus. However, Michael mentions the hard work of student volunteers and urges more students to provide Habitat with their talents.

You can visit the national website at habitat.org and contact the local affiliate at oxfordhabitat@gmail.com or (662)380-3343. Ask about applications if you are in need or learn how to become a volunteer.

Watch on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast episode.