Christian "charity" really slumlords

elma apartment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In 2010, Global Ministries Fellowship, a Memphis faith-based organization founded and run by the Rev. Richard Hamlet of Ridgeway Baptist Church, acquired Goodwill Village, a 200-unit low-income housing apartment complex for $5.7 million dollars.

However, Reverend Hamlet and Global Ministries Fellowship PAC are not running a charity. According to a resident who only felt comfortable giving her first initial - L - residents still pay "according to income around $400 a month."

According to their website, Global Ministries Fellowship PAC "exists for the purpose of providing affordable housing for low to moderate income residents around the country." The express purpose of their housing ministry is "not only to provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing,"

Seventy-year-old resident John laughs at the idea. "This is Tanzania back here," he says, waving broadly towards the litter-strewn courtyard and wildly overgrown hedges. "Just yesterday we killed a snake outside our door.

"Over there" he says, pointing to the front of the complex, "they had four big [snakes] last week." John and L agree all of the snakes have been the highly aggressive vipers endemic to the humid sloughs and creek beds of the American South: "Cottonmouths, Water Moccasins"

Given Goodwill Village's position on the corner of a sandy-banked creek and a wastewater treatment facility, John speculates that the snakes are running out of food and coming into the complex to "eat the rats." As he points out the tell-tale rat roles undermining the foundation of his building, John muses with a chuckle "be careful, snakes don't discriminate."

Considering the presence of snakes in their garden, it is perhaps appropriate that in a 2010 interview on the acquisition of Goodwill Village Hamlet said, "Bible studies are offered, but are voluntary" for residents. The brochure continues, "We [Global Ministries Fellowship PAC] respect and honor freedom of religion."

Indeed, according to their website, Global Ministries Fellowship seeks to "give our residents access to education and training venues which should improve their toolset to become more productive and fulfilled citizens in their community." However, the only "education" ever discussed online or in the press are Bible studies, crusades, evangelism and discipleship.

Anyone walking through Goodwill Village hopes GMF takes better care of the residents spiritually than they do physically. Drifts of garbage stand next to dumpsters overflowing with every manner of refuse rotting in the 95-degree heat. Young men sit on coolers and stacked pallets playing dominos in the shade of water oaks. It is cooler outside than inside, where the air conditioning has yet to be repaired. Other units have box fans crammed into the windows surrounded by blankets and duct taped into place to at least circulate the hot air inside.

Many residents are clearly afraid to talk about their living conditions. Others seem simply ashamed. Elma is an exception. A strong woman with a ready smile, Elma stands outside of her home with her daughter Miracle on her hip.

Elma has lived at Goodwill Village for almost seven years and has seen the change GMF has brought to the property. In her kitchen, Elma points to the dry rotted drawers and cabinet doors hanging at obtuse angles. "I've been asking them for years to take care of the cabinets."

Even worse for Elma and Miracle is their kitchen sink, which lies gutted and stacked in their front room between their goldfish aquarium and television. Two months ago, when a gas leak was reported, management for Global Ministries Fellowship tore out Elma's sink and disconnected her stove and hot water heater, leaving her home a disaster and a huge hole in her wall. No one has been back since.

Elma says, "They brought me a hot plate to cook on, but I got a baby and I need to heat up her bottles." Elma admits, "I am terrified to sleep in here at night." Last month her husband "killed a brown recluse" and she is horrified to think "about what could crawl on her [Miracle]." Pointing to the sink shoved into her front room, "She is my only child. What if her walker was to bump into that and it fell on her?" Nodding with resolution, Elma says, "I have to hold her most of the time outside because it isn't safe in here."

Thankfully, the people of Goodwill Village have each other. Elma is able to cook her family's dinner and heat up Miracle's bottles at neighbors' houses and has lent one of her fans to a neighbor who has yet to get their air conditioning repaired and was told by management to not bother submitting a work order.

In June of this year, Global Ministries Fellowship purchased another Memphis area apartment complex, Arbors of Hickory Ridge, for $10 million, brining their total of Memphis properties to six apartment complexes and over 1,800 units.

Photo: Elma's apartment. James Raines/PW

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  • This article reminds me of an event that occurred when I was a teenager. Our church youth group took on the summer project of fixing up a dilapidated home in the inner-city of Columbus, Ohio. We spent most of the summer replacing dry rotted boards, repairing stuck windows and screens, painting inside and out, fixing toilets, etc. At summer's end the house looked beautiful, the African-American woman who lived there was very appreciative, and we kids felt very proud of ourselves.

    A couple of months later we found out that the woman living in the house was being evicted. The owner of the house decided that now that his property looked so much nicer, he could demand a higher rent for it. We did a little research and discovered to our surprise that the man who owned the house was a deacon in our own church. We went to the youth pastor and asked him to intervene on behalf of the tenant. He told us that the landlord was a very rich man who contributed lots of money to the church and as a long time deacon had considerable power in the church. What he was really saying was that he wasn't going to risk his career by crossing this powerful man. So the woman was evicted and many of us in the youth group never went back to that church.

    Posted by Rev. Paul White, 08/28/2012 8:34am (2 years ago)

  • Gene, your comments make no sense and are unhelpful. You have failed to refute anything posited in the post, have misinterpreted it badly, and have established arguments that are irrelevant to the truth of the story presented. The title reads, "Christian 'Charity' Really Slumlords." It does not say, "All Christian Charities Are Really Just Slumlords" and the post itself makes no claim or even insinuation that that would be so. What religious, spiritual, or other characteristics might describe other slumlords has no bearing on the specifics of this post. Plainly, the "AGENDA" of this post is merely to expose Global Ministries Fellowship, which it has done, and it was not unfair for them to do so simply because there are a plethora of other slumlords out there.

    Memphis is awash in slumlording landlords, of many stripes. Many of them are non-profits posing as compassionate charitable alternatives to slumlording landlords and have used religion to cover their behavior. This is a valuable story for that reason.

    Posted by Ambrose, 08/27/2012 1:04pm (2 years ago)

  • In response to bashing christians....
    There is truth and then there is fabrication.
    Which is it here? I've never been to this particular housing project but if these conditions exist, then what difference does it make what religion or not?
    These conditions are inhumane. I'll be if you dig deep enough you'll find othere religions guilty of the same deeds. But this article is about a religion that has taken on a business model. Perhaps that is the crux of the of the issue and should be debated along those lines.

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 08/18/2012 11:58pm (2 years ago)

  • Isn't there a housing code inspector?

    Posted by kd didit , 08/16/2012 7:57pm (2 years ago)

  • I know those people mean good but mabey they took a little too much for them to handle

    Posted by Sethc4, 08/10/2012 5:54am (2 years ago)

  • I appreciate that you are trying to bring a bad situation to light so that it may be corrected. um...that IS what you're doing, right? Or is this just another slam in the face of Christianity for the sake of slamming? Not ALL Christians are slumlords and not ALL slumlords are Christians, but by the reasoning of the title of the article, it seems that you are saying that the reason these conditions are as they are is because the owners are Christian.
    I'm not saying these owners are acting responsibly...or not. I'm not there. I haven't seen it for myself. But I am sick of people putting ALL Christians down because SOME aren't being the people they should be.
    I'm sure there are many other religions whose followers own property and they aren't being responsible. Could you possibly show some of THEM? I would imagine that it wouldn't fit YOUR agenda to show and Islamic, Buddhist, or other religion's slumlords in action, would it?
    At least be fair in your 'reporting'.

    Posted by Gene, 08/09/2012 2:38pm (2 years ago)

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