How Oasis of Hope & Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis Came Together on Bearwater Park: A Story of Faith & Why This Nine-Year Project Was Worth the Struggle
By Terry Hoff, Director of Oasis
2001-2006: We as a ministry, reached out and began developing relationships with youth and families living in the old Cedar Court Apartments (now Bearwater Park), which was the largest apartment complex in the neighborhood (18 buildings and 122 units). During those five years, we learned intimately that many of the problems on Seventh Street and our entire community (such as violence, drug use, and rampant gangs) were originating from Cedar Court. In 2006 one of our youth, Lil Van, was shot and killed right outside the complex.
2007: Our youth baseball coach, Mike Timmons (who also worked in real estate investment), saw Cedar Court come up for sale on public auction. He bid on it and won! We then took the biggest leap of faith to-date as a ministry and decided to buy the complex despite being very concerned over the debt we would incur to acquire the property, not knowing our ability to obtain the grant funding necessary to redevelop it. We bought it anyway and Cedar Court was now ours!
2008-2010: We worked tirelessly to rehab the complex – we had countless volunteers (many of you were there!) and more than 30 large construction dumpsters that were filled with sheetrock and debris from the buildings as we hammered, and stripped, and hauled away rubble in hopes of doing the demo grunt-work ourselves. All the while we applied for grant after grant, with no success.
2011: God provided a generous grant through the City of Memphis to get started on the redevelopment! However, it came with a MAJOR string attached: it required new construction, not rehab. I then had the humbling duty of letting all our staff, volunteers, and community know that all their hard work on the complex was now going to be demolished and removed from the site; HARD! God knew better than I did though and new construction would be significantly better for the community in the long-run. In addition to the grant, the City of Memphis came alongside us in partnership by donating the demolition of the old complex. It was exciting!
2012-2013: This first tedious step in being awarded grant money is only a part of the challenge in redeveloping an entire subdivision. Countless meetings with engineers, architects, the developing partner (Promise CDC), city departments, and community gatherings – not to mention the myriad of delays with the demolition and other complicated hoops to navigate – the Phase 1 project seemed like it would never be complete. But thanks to the generosity of many donors, as well as, Hope Church, the 10 housing units of Phase 1 were completed in July of 2013, debt free! Families began moving in!
2014-2015: It was back to applying for more grant applications for Phase 2, but unfortunately the federal government suffered a significant recession and the money for affordable housing wasn’t nearly as available as in the past. We were successful in being awarded a small grant through THDA (Tennessee Housing Development Agency) allowing us to build 4 more homes on the site, as well as, some infrastructure funding through the city. As grateful as we were for this, it was realistically a drop in the bucket to be able to redevelop the remaining vacant land at the site (80% of the subdivision). As I was becoming resigned to the fact that I would be 91-years-old and still trying to build homes in the subdivision, along comes another blessing to save the day! Mutual friends at MLB-Uptown LLC connected Oasis with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis to see if there might be a win-win relationship possible.
2016: They were definitely right – Oasis and parent ministry, Hope Church, could not be more delighted to partner with Memphis Habitat and be a part of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project to bring 19 new homes to the community, which will bring us much closer to completing our Bearwater project! To say it is an honor to work alongside these people and this organization is an understatement! God is so good to bring all things together that we had NO power to accomplish on our own. To Him be the glory for all that has taken place and all that will happen in this new place for many families to call home. We look forward to building relationships with the new home-owners who will move in soon and are grateful for all the progress, growth and interest happening in North Memphis!
More opportunities to help build!
Even though we will wrap up building these 19 homes with Habitat this week, Oasis will be building 4 more homes beginning in September and we’d love to have your help! If you missed volunteering this week, you still have an opportunity to grab a hammer and say that you were a part of this transformational project!
Building affordable homes is an important step to helping families live stable, healthy, and safe lives, although Oasis of Hope has numerous other ministries and programs as well! If you would like more information on how to get involved with our housing program or one of our many youth programs, community events, businesses, or senior citizen program, check out our website or contact Terry. Stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter and Instagram for daily updates. We’d love to plug you in to this growing and exciting neighborhood!