Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) seeks to apply a holistic, asset-based redevelopment approach for challenged neighborhoods.  In Wake County, we are pleased to be one of 55 local Habitat efforts across the U.S. selected to be in the initial working group to pioneer this new strategy.

Our NRI effort is centered in the SE Raleigh neighborhoods of Long Acres/Apollo Heights.  These neighborhoods, once thriving subdivisions, have experienced significant decline in recent years, with deteriorating housing and increasing levels of street crime.  Looking deeper, we have found the neighborhoods to be still full of long-time, caring residents eager for a revitalization.  Habitat Wake has current plans to build 9 new homes in the community and we’ll pilot our A Brush With Kindness exterior home repair program by partnering with 10 additional homeowners to spruce up their homes.

The ultimate strategy of NRI is to establish a neighborhood-led task force that works holistically with agencies and other partners to address the challenges faced in the neighborhood.  On October 15, the first such meeting was held with numerous City departments and non-profit agencies present to hear about the plan and to consider their role in working with neighborhood residents to revitalize their community.  The holistic approach is well underway.

The meeting was chaired by Myrtle Strickland-Shepard, resident of the neighborhood since 1972.  I went up to thank Mrs. Strickland-Shepard after the meeting and she commented to me that her husband was skeptical about this group bringing change to the neighborhood, as other past efforts had failed.  She said, “but this group is different.  This time the change will come.  I really believe that.”

What a compelling comment for those of us seeking to work for change!  Habitat has some history and reputation.  But Mrs. Strickland-Shepard is speaking out on pure faith.  NRI is a new strategy and we are all finding our way, but she believes this effort will be different.  What more noble and important thing could we do than to prove her right?  Neighborhoods such as Long Acres and Apollo Heights deserve the investment of our time, talents, and resources.  Once you meet the neighbors, writing these neighborhoods off is just not an option.

Read more about NRI and see our partners on our website.