Welcome to the Neighborhood: How One Organization is Helping Families in New Orleans

Photo by Lenore Seal

 

by Devin Ladner

When I arrived at the Neighborhood Development Foundation, the office was full of energy and movement. It was only a Tuesday, but there was plenty happening. CEO Fred Johnson greeted us with enthusiasm and only asked that, although we were there to speak with just him and Rosalind Washington, the Director of Operations, we understood that the NDF is a true power team, not simply a power couple.

What is the NDF, though, and what do they provide for the city of New Orleans? When I sat down to speak with Johnson and Washington, I soon realized that what they and the others at NDF do is much bigger than just homes — they are improving hundreds of lives while strengthening their community.

Washington summed it up best when she said, the NDF is a “32-year-old asset building, not-for-profit organization.” The particular asset they work with is homeownership for low to moderate income families. They teach classes that deal with the linguistics of homeownership, essentially teaching people how the process of buying a home works and helping them develop an action plan to improve their chances of buying a home.

Johnson explained that originally the foundation arose out of a failed campaign. The man involved in the campaign, though, had a knack for pulling data about homeownership in communities. With that data, they decided to develop a 12-hour class about homeownership. Johnson became their outreach specialist at the time and knew that homeownership was important because as he said, Malcolm X states, “Land is the basis of all independence, and every war that has been fought in history has been the landless against the landlord.” The operation was a success, and today thousands of people have successfully bought a home thanks to their educating techniques.

The first step is simply setting up an appointment. From there, participants are able to meet one-on-one with a housing advisor, a credit report is pulled, and an action plan is set up on a personal basis to help families purchase a home. Before the NDF, homebuyer training was a novel idea. Today, Johnson said that through homeownership they are accomplishing something much bigger. The NDF is “breaking the back off poverty.” Johnson reminded me that they are not a welfare program — they will not do anything for you that you do not first do for yourself.

“You have to put some skin in the game,” Johnson explained. “This is the biggest ticket you will buy, and when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be you signing the line. It’s going to be your money going into homeownership.”

How important is homeownership, though? Homeownership affects more than many realize. Rosalind enlightened me on just a few factors that are decided by homeownership. Communities often decide which schools your children can attend and where you live decides the quality of schooling your children receive.

“Lenders,” she reminded me, “will always ask whether you rent or own.”

Even businesses are determined based on homeownership. Rosalind explained that businesses decide where to reside by looking at communities and seeing if more owners or renters live there.

“Owners,” she said, “are dependable.”

Unlike renters, a homeowner’s mobility is limited. Therefore, owners will invest more into their community, which is also significant for politicians, too.

The real kicker, though, is when Washington reminded me that, “You’re going to be paying a mortgage whether you want to or not. You just have to decide whether it’s going to be your mortgage or someone else’s.”

The heart of this organization is evident per conversations with its staff – overcoming poverty and giving future generations a chance is the real goal at NDF. Johnson admits that the real reason he stays with the organization, even when other opportunities arise, is helping people gain ownership of a home who might have never been able to due to lack of knowledge into the process of buying one. Since they have been in operation for over 30 years now (the average life of a mortgage, Washington tells me), three generations have now been able to purchase a home due to their efforts.

Photo by Lenore Seal

When I ask Washington and Johnson if they have anything specific they would like to leave with the readers of DIME, they both talk to me about giving back to the community.

“If you want to help end homelessness, give children stability, support developing communities and help end poverty,” Washington says, “then give to organizations that help develop those communities.”

The Neighborhood Development Foundation is not only a long standing not-for-profit foundation, but it is also one of these very organizations that is putting an expiration date on homelessness and a pedestal under the feet of low income children. When you give to NDF, you give to everyone.

When I arrived at the Neighborhood Development Foundation, the office was full of energy and movement. It was only a Tuesday, but there was plenty happening. CEO Fred Johnson greeted us with enthusiasm and only asked that, although we were there to speak with just him and Rosalind Washington, the Director of Operations, we understood that the NDF is a true power team, not simply a power couple.

What is the NDF, though, and what do they provide for the city of New Orleans? When I sat down to speak with Johnson and Washington, I soon realized that what they and the others at NDF do is much bigger than just homes — they are improving hundreds of lives while strengthening their community.

Washington summed it up best when she said, the NDF is a “32-year-old asset building, not-for-profit organization.” The particular asset they work with is homeownership for low to moderate income families. They teach classes that deal with the linguistics of homeownership, essentially teaching people how the process of buying a home works and helping them develop an action plan to improve their chances of buying a home.

Photo by Lenore Seal

Johnson explained that originally the foundation arose out of a failed campaign. The man involved in the campaign, though, had a knack for pulling data about homeownership in communities. With that data, they decided to develop a 12-hour class about homeownership. Johnson became their outreach specialist at the time and knew that homeownership was important because as he said, Malcolm X states, “Land is the basis of all independence, and every war that has been fought in history has been the landless against the landlord.” The operation was a success, and today thousands of people have successfully bought a home thanks to their educating techniques.

The first step is simply setting up an appointment. From there, participants are able to meet one-on-one with a housing advisor, a credit report is pulled, and an action plan is set up on a personal basis to help families purchase a home. Before the NDF, homebuyer training was a novel idea. Today, Johnson said that through homeownership they are accomplishing something much bigger. The NDF is “breaking the back off poverty.” Johnson reminded me that they are not a welfare program — they will not do anything for you that you do not first do for yourself.

“You have to put some skin in the game,” Johnson explained. “This is the biggest ticket you will buy, and when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be you signing the line. It’s going to be your money going into homeownership.”

How important is homeownership, though? Homeownership affects more than many realize. Rosalind enlightened me on just a few factors that are decided by homeownership. Communities often decide which schools your children can attend and where you live decides the quality of schooling your children receive.

“Lenders,” she reminded me, “will always ask whether you rent or own.”

Even businesses are determined based on homeownership. Rosalind explained that businesses decide where to reside by looking at communities and seeing if more owners or renters live there.

“Owners,” she said, “are dependable.”

Unlike renters, a homeowner’s mobility is limited. Therefore, owners will invest more into their community, which is also significant for politicians, too.

The real kicker, though, is when Washington reminded me that, “You’re going to be paying a mortgage whether you want to or not. You just have to decide whether it’s going to be your mortgage or someone else’s.”

The heart of this organization is evident per conversations with its staff – overcoming poverty and giving future generations a chance is the real goal at NDF. Johnson admits that the real reason he stays with the organization, even when other opportunities arise, is helping people gain ownership of a home who might have never been able to due to lack of knowledge into the process of buying one. Since they have been in operation for over 30 years now (the average life of a mortgage, Washington tells me), three generations have now been able to purchase a home due to their efforts.

When I ask Washington and Johnson if they have anything specific they would like to leave with the readers of DIME, they both talk to me about giving back to the community.

“If you want to help end homelessness, give children stability, support developing communities and help end poverty,” Washington says, “then give to organizations that help develop those communities.”

The Neighborhood Development Foundation is not only a long standing not-for-profit foundation, but it is also one of these very organizations that is putting an expiration date on homelessness and a pedestal under the feet of low income children. When you give to NDF, you give to everyone.

 

 

Written by

Devin Ladner is a Mississippi native who currently lives in New Orleans. Before New Orleans, Devin spent some time in Los Angeles where she starred in various short films and produced one of her own. Today, she's an outspoken feminist, a published author, and a voice for the LGBTQ community. She prefers to spend her time with her cats or interviewing people in the sex industry. When she isn't writing, acting, or blogging on mississippiinthecity.com, you can find her bartending at the Rum House because apparently she's pretty spectacular at that, as well.

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