Local Community Takes Back Neighborhood - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/09/03

Local Community Takes Back Neighborhood

Two years ago, the ice cream truck was probably the last thing you would see in the Olivet subdivision.

"When I first moved in it was drugs - drugs everywhere. There were drugs, gangs, gang fights, rival gangs. We had the loud music, the cussing, the streets were dirty, filthy," said Rev. Nathaniel Jeanpierre.

Crime infested the neighborhood. But this Marine veteran lived up to the military slogan he fought under - the few and the proud.

"I decided I would... put on a combat uniform, come back out and let them know that the war was on," said Jeanpierre.

And with the help of police officers, that war lead to the organization of a thriving homeowners association.

And when members started to reclaim the community, a lot of the criminal activity went away. Police started to patrol the neighborhood on a regular basis and a lot of people who were afraid to come out at first, are out now enjoying life in Olivet.

"It's a sense of freedom now. Before they were held hostage in their home," said Jeanpierre.

Thanks to the "cleaning house" efforts of the association, homes that were once valued in the low $30,000 range have now increased in value to over $60,000.

"Homeowners are taking interest in their property now. They are upgrading their property, they're repairing the property. They're moving all the debris from the front lawns and what not. It looks good now," said Jeanpierre.

"There's no kids hanging out on corners. Now we have street lights that stay. The city had even threatened not to put any more street lights up because they were having to come out, like, if they put 'em up today they would shoot em out tonight," said resident and block leader Martha Williams, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years.

And they have advice to other neighborhoods who continue to fight this war.

"Get rid of your fear.Your fear is the thing that is your worst enemy. Your fear is the thing that will destroy you," said Jeanpierre.

The Olivet community has become a model community of sorts.

It's received numerous awards, and Rev. Jeanpierre has been asked to help organize other communities throughout the area.

In the future, the Olivet Homeowners Association plans to build a community center.

By Karla Redditte

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