NAACP and Habitat Partner to Build New Homes in Mississippi

The historic communities of Turkey Creek and Forest Heights will serve as the backdrop for the announcement of a collaboration between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Habitat for Humanity International to build at least 25 new homes in the areas ravaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"In addition to building homes, we're building a bridge between the two organizations," said Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP President & CEO. "Habitat for Humanity International and the NAACP have such similar values and principles, that this is a natural partnership," said Jonathan Reckford, Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity International. "Both are committed to giving people a hand up, to social justice issues, to ensuring that everyone has equal access and opportunity, whether it is to housing or anything else."

The collaboration is being announced as volunteers from the NAACP and Habitat are joined by Gordon, Reckford and Ken Meinert, Habitat's Operation Home Delivery Senior Vice President, to help raise the walls on the first house. "This is an area so rich in history, so rich in culture, and despite the fact that most of the homes here were flooded or suffered wind and tree damage, it's a history that won't yield," said Gordon. "Homes that have been shelter and a sanctuary for generations of freedmen still stand, and today, we add another to their number. Soon, more will follow."

Although the first home is being built in Turkey Creek, a historic community settled in the 1860s by freed slaves, the Forest Heights community is the primary site for the new homes. Forest Heights, where 19 of the homes will be built, was developed some 30 years ago by the National Council of Negro Women, in cooperation with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and with the support of the Ford Foundation. The development has been a model for communities in other parts of Mississippi and the United States. Dorothy Height, Chair and President Emeritus, National Council of Negro Women, and one of the founders of this development, said: "Give people decent housing and that opens the door to decent jobs. This project will open the door to opportunity." Gordon said, "We are proud to have the opportunity to partner with Dr. Height, a pioneer in the movement for social justice."

"The NAACP/Habitat partnership will play an integral role in the resurrection of these devastated communities," Gordon added. "I am excited to partner with an organization that has done so much to provide decent affordable housing for families throughout the world. From the time Katrina struck the Gulf, the NAACP's goal has been to extend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in their time of need. This is part of our effort to give the survivors hope and to help restore their sense of dignity and well-being."

Gordon said: "The need is there and the resources are there, too. We simply want people to embrace that need and help build these homes."

The announcement is also the beginning of what Gordon and Reckford are counting on being a long-term relationship between the global nonprofit homebuilder and the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, not only in the hurricane-affected areas, but nationally and in other opportunities where both organizations can partner to strengthen communities. Working together, both believe that gains can be made in getting the issues of affordable housing and access on the hearts and minds of more and more people.

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