October 2017 Neighbor Spotlight Ray Eurquhart
What is the name of your neighborhood?
How long have you lived in your neighborhood?
Probably 50 years or so.
Tell us about your neighborhood.
Southside is a working class community where residents used to work in the Textile Industry and at Lincoln Health Center. As the city has changed and deindustrialized, residents have been transitioning into other fields. Middle class residents in the neighborhood are connected with the school system, such as Whitted School and CC Spaulding and other professional fields like NC Mutual Life that are all within walking distance. The neighborhood has fallen on bad times in the past due to disinvestment, but now it is being gentrified and displacing the working class history.
What successes have your neighborhood and community had?
Turning around Whitted School to become a center for Pre-K and the retired community is important for Southside. In addition, they have had success with home rehab. They wanted to take care of their seniors and were able to get about 9 homes repaired. Through partnership with Durham Community Land Trust and Self Help, they have put some affordable rentals on the ground, but they need more affordable units for 60%, 30% and 20% AMI.
In addition, they have been part of training a number of folks in fields such as construction, culinary, medical, and clerical. They were part of the Weed and Seed program as a targeted area that brought in training funds for young people.
Finally, he is proud to have worked with Council and the Coalition of Affordable Housing (CAHT) and Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) to get a tax relief program in place so that high property valuations will not force the seniors and other income challenged residents into foreclosure and displacement. The long range solution is to create a new circuit breaker that uses income as the litmus test, not age or disability.
What are some concerns that you still have in your neighborhood?
Someone was just killed in Southside 3 days ago, so there are still problems of gun violence. Other crimes are still present, such as breaking and entering. Southside still needs targeted programs to help skill people up, like GED, vocational and technical skills trainings for new cutting edge jobs. Still need more affordable housing, which is one of Ray’s primary focuses. The lack of homeownership is a problem. The existing program lacks class and ethnic diversity and is out of price range of neighborhood. They use area median income, but Ray believes it should be Neighborhood Median Income because 170k houses aren’t affordable for people who were currently living in Southside. He believes that Southside could use a paid organizer that would work in association with the neighborhood and community on all previously mentioned concerns.
What advice would you give to other community members?
Neighborhoods need organization. “Get organized.” You need a lot of door knocking and civic engagement with neighbors. Plan activities to get feet on the street. Build learning organizations that are constantly growing and trying new things to get people involved. New people must get involved. 5-10 people isn’t enough. Use old fashioned phone trees. Create committees and subcommittees to tackle all issues. Warm bodies that buy into programs and initiatives need to be at the Neighborhood Association meetings. There must be a proper mix of elders and youth. We talk about young people off the hook, and so we need to get them involved.
Do you have any upcoming opportunities for other people to get involved?
For Southside, we need to pay attention to Fayette Place. In addition, we need to know what happens to the old Harriet Tubman branch of the YWCA on Umstead Street near the repurposed Whitted School. The whole corridor needs intervention as more people are using that area. We need to also think about connectivity. How do we connect the Whitted Programs with WD Hill. We should pay attention to the light rail and the additional stop that is being added at Mangum and Blackwell. Finally, we need to pay attention to Forestview Heights and JJ Henderson that serve our seniors and might be added to RAD list.