Local nonprofit helps renovate, revive Black-owned homes
A relatively new non-profit in Portland is fighting gentrification — and allowing Black homeowners to age in their longtime family homes.
Taking Ownership PDX describes itself as small but mighty. Recently, the group was able to help a homeowner in Northeast Portland.
"I feel wonderful to know that there are young people that are still around that do this," homeowner Earnestine Mitchell said.
A rotting fence, mattresses, lawnmowers, barbecues, cars and more have all been piling up in Mitchell's yard for decades. Guided by their mission to help Black homeowners, Taking Ownership PDX gathered items and services that could really turn her situation around.
"It came after the George Floyd murder — people [were] reaching out to me, asking how they could become better allies for the Black community," Wyatt explained. "I said, 'You know you've got to share your resources if your privilege has given you those economic opportunities.'"
In Mitchell's case, that meant donations of tow trucks to remove the many cars her late husband had collected, a contractor to replace a battered fence, a trailer to haul away everything — even new windows from Medallion Industries and Milgard.
Taking Ownership founder Randal Wyatt started the nonprofit in June 2020. Today, he has more than 100 people on its waiting list who need help just like Mitchell.
Wyatt says in many cases, homeowners can't keep up with the cost of repairs and liens can get put on their homes.
"I'm a Portland native," Wyatt said. "I've seen how gentrification has affected the Black community."
He's been doing nonprofit work since he became an adult. He says this is by far the most rewarding.
"It's incredible, lots of tears of joy… 'Too good to be true' is what I hear a lot," Wyatt said. "They don't expect you to come out and do stuff for free, that's not really the way of our society."
The difference in Mitchell's yard is obvious. The fallen fence has been replaced, the cars and junk are cleared and new windows have been installed so she can look out at all the space she now has.
"He is doing a great deed to all of us, including me — who, as of today, I can go out in my backyard, when I don't know that I could ever gotten the stuff out from back there," Mitchell said.
Taking Ownership PDX has many volunteer opportunities and they're always looking for contractors who may volunteer their time and supplies.
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