Rory Doyle is a freelance photographer based in Cleveland, Mississippi. This photographic essay takes place in Leflore County (28,000 inhabitants), which has a daily newspaper, the Greenwood Commonwealth.
In early August, Gloria Jean Lewis, 61, walked into her completely renovated home in Greenwood, Mississippi, with a huge sigh of relief.
She has lived in the house since 1998. But years of disrepair have led to countless problems: a collapsing roof, poor plumbing, leaky floors, lack of air conditioning and central heating, inadequate wiring. Because she meets U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards as a long-term, low-income resident, Lewis qualified for a renovation grant from the Mississippi Home Investment Partnerships Program. Home Corporation, a government-administered initiative that helps fund safe and affordable projects. lodging. The remodeling was carried out by Delta Design Build Workshop (Delta DB), a social impact design-build company based in Greenwood. “There was so much I had to do,” Lewis says. “Without the grant, I know for a fact that I couldn’t have fixed everything.”
Housing support is desperately needed in the Mississippi Delta, a historically predominantly black rural area with a declining population. According to the Delta Regional Authority, the 18 counties that make up the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area are considered distressed, with high unemployment rates and low per capita income.
Delta DB co-founder Emily Roush-Elliott sees the main housing problem in the Delta as one of systemic injustice, with houses and properties undervalued in black neighborhoods. “If Mrs. Lewis’ house, for example, is valued at $ 40,000 today, but has invested more than $ 80,000 in it since owning it, that is clearly not the American dream.” , explains Roush-Elliott. (These numbers are hypothetical.) “This begs the very frightening question: is housing a good investment for low-income Delta residents? When valuations are below the cost of construction, she notes, only high-income households are able to finance and build homes.
Lewis felt blessed to find a way out of a system stacked against her. “So many houses are run down here, and some people end up losing their homes,” she said. “It becomes so bad for some people that they just can’t stay, especially if they live alone and don’t have family members to support them. I know a lot of people who end up renting because at least the owners are supposed to fix the things that need fixing.
Williams paints a window frame.
Lewis organizes blinds and other possessions.
LEFT: Williams paints a window frame. RIGHT: Lewis organizes blinds and other goods.
Photos in Lewis’s remodeled living room.
Whitehead and BJ Kinds work outside.
LEFT: Photos in Lewis’s remodeled living room. RIGHT: Whitehead and BJ Kinds work outside.
Read more about The Lost Local News Issue
Since 2005, approximately 2,200 local newspapers across America have closed. Here are some of the stories that risk being lost, told by local journalists.
Marguerite Sullivan: What happens to society – and our democracy – when community and regional journalism dries up