2011 Mercy Housing Annual Report
Transforming a Savannah Neighborhood
Mercy Housing Southeast
In October 2011, Johnnie Mae Pollard was eager to be the first person to move into one of the 114 newly built homes at Savannah Gardens in Savannah, Ga.
“I said Hallelujah and thank you god,” said Johnnie.
After an illness threatened her life in the 1980s, Johnnie Mae pollard needed extensive surgery. the doctors didn’t know if she would survive the operations, but thankfully she did. However, Johnnie found herself in a dire financial position as a result of the high costs associated with her medical treatment.
Fortunately, Johnnie’s dear friend, Linda Roundtree-Williams, entered her name into the Savannah Housing Authority’s lottery to receive housing assistance in the Savannah Gardens neighborhood. However, the neighborhood was wrought with crime and racial tensions. After the property where Johnnie was living closed, she moved to the nearby Strathmore Estates in 1999, where living circumstances were only slightly better.
“There was still a lot of crime and violence over there,” said Johnnie. “I picked a unit by the main office, under a street light. It was also right on a busy street. Cars were going by all the time, so at least it would’ve been harder for someone to break into my apartment without being noticed – but it wasn’t safe.”
The 65-year-old, 45-acre Strathmore estates was originally built as public housing for shipyard workers and has been characterized as a crime-ridden neighborhood for years. A few years ago, through a partnership with CHSa Development and the City of Savannah, Mercy Housing Southeast put a plan in motion to turn what the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief once called “one of the most notorious crime centers in the city,” into a new mixed-income and environmentally friendly housing community.
With the first phase of this major revitalization project complete, construction has already begun on the second and third phases, which will include 40 affordable rental homes for seniors and 94 apartments for low- and moderate-income families. after the fourth phase of 114 units is complete in 2014, Savannah gardens will be home to more than 350 families and individuals.
“The completion of the first development phase marked a pivotal turning point for the neighborhood,” said Charice Heywood, Mercy Housing Southeast President. “What had been a place of blight has been transformed into a place of hope and possibility.”
For Johnnie, her new home has provided her with new hope, the feeling of security and a new sense of community.
“There is a vast difference between Savannah Gardens, today, from Savannah Gardens of the past,” she said. “I love my neighbors. When we see each other we have conversations. We all look out for one another. We pick up after ourselves and each other because everything is so pristine and beautiful right now and we want to keep it that way.”
By stepping into this neighborhood, Mercy Housing continues to demonstrate our commitment to transforming neighborhoods for residents like Johnnie.
“I ask my neighbors to look back on where we had come from and remember that place every day. When we look back, we see exactly how far we have come and see exactly how much we all have now,” said Johnnie. “God has given us a beautiful gift and we need to take care of it…to appreciate it and each other. God has answered my prayers.”