Finding an affordable place to live in south Mississippi is a crisis that just won't go away. That's how the head of Biloxi's housing authority described one of the area's most pressing issues. On Monday, Bobby Hensley said his agency was about to provide hope to some of the people still searching for housing relief.
That hope could be seen in a fresh coat of paint that seemed to do wonders for a back bay complex that was nearly placed on the do not resuscitate list.
"I didn't know if this place was worth saving after the storm," the Biloxi Housing Authority Director said as he described his initial feelings about the Hope VI site after Katrina.
Gwen Creagh knew it was worth saving. For this hurricane survivor, Hope VI in east Biloxi gave her a shelter during the storm. And in this post Katrina world, it offers hope to storm victims like her.
"It's good to be home. Some people don't have a home, baby. I woke up this morning in a home," said Creagh.
Ms. Gwen lives in one of the 56 Hope VI units that no longer have hurricane damage. All of those units are on the southside of the complex, farther away from the back bay waters that flooded every unit.
"This is my home and I'm blessed to be here," she said.
Across from Ms. Gwen are another 140 one, two and three bedroom apartments that were once filled with mold and muck. But several months ago, contractors started stripping away the hurricane damage. Suddenly, a livable, and an affordable neighborhood is nearly complete.
John Faulk is the BHA's construction director.
"The contractor has pushed twice as hard on this effort as they did before because they realize the urgency," Faulk explained. "We need it, the community needs it."
Tenants like Loretta Johnson need it.
"I love it. It's needed, and it's overdue," she said of her new home.
Hope VI is a $60 million affordable housing project created by the Biloxi Housing Authority. It was just about to open when Katrina walloped it. Now, the plan is to have all 196 units on the north and the south sides of Hope VI rented by January.
"The homes are nice, they're affordable for people. And it's just a model for the rest of the community," Hensley said.
Hope VI includes the apartments, and the recently opened Cadet Point Senior Village. If you're interested in a Hope VI apartment, applications can be filled out at the Cadet Point leasing office on Maple Street.