Rebuilding Together Houston, HP confront 3rd Ward housing crisis
Homeowner Mary Banks (giving the thumbs up) is surrounded by city, community and Rebuilding Together Houston representatives. Photo by Aswad Walker.

The historic Third Ward may have more families at risk of losing their homes than any other neighborhood in Houston. Low-income Third Ward seniors are struggling to repair their aging homes in an effort to age in place and preserve their home for future generations.

Rebuilding Together Houston (RTH) and HP are launching RTH’s Community Revitalization program to bring hope to families across the Third Ward, a landmark African American community since the 1870s.

“We are excited to bring our mission — Repairing Homes, Revitalizing Communities, and Rebuilding Lives — to Third Ward,” said RTH’s CEO Christine Holland. “These families have a deep connection and great love for their community, but they need our help to sustain the American dream of home ownership.”

Though RTH has serviced over 14,000 homes, Mary Bank’s home was their first in Third Ward.

“I had to put money on the side to try to get it fixed, but I know I couldn’t afford it,” said Banks, widow of the honorary mayor of Third Ward Ed Banks. “But when they came over to the Third Ward Multi-Service Center and left some flyers over there, I found the paperwork, filled it out and didn’t think it was gonna go through. But when they went through, I’m jumping for joy, because they did a lot. And I appreciate what they did for me because if it hadn’t been for them, this wouldn’t have happened.”

The work was facilitated by volunteers from Hewlett-Packard (HP).

“Rebuilding Together Houston was an organization we heard about, I’d say six-plus months ago,” said Jason Ozenne, community outreach chair of HP’s Black Employee Impact Network. “They’d been trying to get into Third Ward and I’m also resident of Third Ward. I thought it’d be really great to try and partner with them on this.”

Ozenne said Banks’ home was the first, hopefully of many that will receive the services of RTH and HP volunteers.

“There’s been a lot of talk about gentrification and what I see is that no one can stop it. However, RTH can give homeowners and families like Ms. Banks a choice. If your roof is leaking on your bed, you might be very tempted to sell your home even though you really wanna live your life out there. And by us putting a new roof on, and doing the stabilization of the structure, and we still have safety upgrades to do inside, it really isn’t a choice that Ms. Banks has to make. She wants to live here the rest of her life, and it’s important for her to pass her home on to the next generation of her family. Then we do our little part in enabling this, and the volunteers are certainly a very important part of this,” said Holland.

RTH brought in contractors to make licensed repairs: roof restoration, stabilizing the structure and plumbing. The project will also include health and safety modifications to prevent fire and falls, and improve air quality and temperature control. As part of the Third Ward Showcase, HP volunteers made exterior repairs and donated HP products to the Banks home. Third Ward nonprofits Change Happens, Northern Third Ward Implementation Project, and Councilwoman Evans-Shabazz’s office served as community partners.