Westside Future Fund Celebrates Homeownership Success with Justin Jones

We are thrilled to share the exciting news of Justin Jones’ home closing through Westside Future Fund’s Home on the Westside program. Justin embodies the spirit of community retention as both an alumnus and current employee of Morehouse College, residing right here on Atlanta’s Westside. With the support of Westside Future Fund and our partners, including Invest Atlanta and Atlanta Housing, Justin received $115,000 in down payment assistance to make his dream of homeownership a reality.

Home on the Westside stands as Westside Future Fund’s flagship program, committed to three key service areas aimed at empowering residents and fostering community stability. These service areas include providing homeownership opportunities for mortgage-ready buyers like Justin, ensuring quality multifamily rentals, and offering property tax assistance through our Anti-Displacement Tax Fund. Through initiatives like these, we strive to create pathways to economic stability and combat displacement in the neighborhoods we serve.

Jones’ journey to homeownership not only represents a personal milestone but also underscores the impact of collaborative efforts between Westside Future Fund and our partners in creating lasting positive change within our community.

This is my first home,” said Jones. “I have been planning to find an affordable home in Atlanta that I can raise a family in one day. Given the current housing market it started to seem impossible, but thankfully Westside Future Fund was able to step in the gap to help me make a lifelong investment in my future.”

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Justin and look forward to supporting more individuals like him on their path to achieving their homeownership dreams through Home on the Westside.

WFF’s mission to advance a compassionate approach to equitable revitalization is achieved through the support of our philanthropic partners. The organization has launched Our Next Chapter, a capital fundraising campaign to accelerate its ability to create affordable housing for legacy and future residents of the historic Westside and to restore these storied neighborhoods as part of the fabric of Atlanta. Become a part of Our Next Chapter.

Inspired By A Legacy Of Striving For Change: The Role of Parks in Achieving the Beloved Community in Atlanta’s Historic Westside

Atlanta’s Historic Westside is a beacon of activism, where courageous Black leaders from the late 19th century through the Civil Rights Movement and up to the present day have tirelessly championed change and justice. Despite facing severe adversities, including violence, these leaders have significantly influenced not only the neighborhoods of the Westside but also the broader landscapes of Atlanta and the nation. Their steadfast dedication to building a community where equity and justice are paramount serves as an enduring model for current and future social justice initiatives. This vision of unity and equality is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the “Beloved Community.”

At the Westside Future Fund (WFF), we are deeply inspired and instructed by this legacy as we strive for the equitable restoration of these neighborhoods. In my role as President and CEO of WFF, and as a resident of Vine City, I have had the honor of collaborating with community leaders who are pivotal in revitalizing and enriching this cultural legacy. Three I want to note today are Carrie Salvary, Rosario Hernandez, and Annie Moore.

Championed by Carrie, Rosario, and Annie, are four relatively new greenspaces in the community: Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, Rodney Cook Sr. Park, Mattie Freeland Park, and Lindsay Street Park. These recent additions to Atlanta’s Westside are vital for ongoing development, community engagement, and serve as crucial green infrastructure for stormwater management and environmental sustainability. Complementing these parks, Historic Westside Gardens has developed two community gardens, further enhancing the neighborhood’s commitment to green space and sustainability. These new greenspaces are integral to collective revitalization efforts.

Growing up on Atlanta’s Eastside and later living in Decatur, I took the greenspaces in the community for granted.  It wasn’t until I relocated to Vine City, immersing myself in the work of the Westside Future Fund (WFF), that I fully grasped the profound impact of systemic inequity and disinvestment on Black communities in Atlanta’s Westside, including in terms of greenspace accessibility.

I had the honor of being in conversation with these women at the recent 35th annual Parks and Greenspace Conference. The theme of this year’s Park Pride conference, ‘Parks for All: Intention to Action,’ resonated deeply with me. During the event, as I engaged with Carrie, Rosario and Annie, we delved into the significance of their intentional actions in cultivating Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community. This was particularly poignant, considering the historic neighborhoods served by WFF were once home to nearly 50,000 residents in the 1950s and 60s.  These neighborhoods were a thriving community and were integral in uniting Black residents from diverse backgrounds.

Today, WFF, along with community leaders like Annie, Carrie, and Rosario, is dedicated to reweaving this community tapestry, striving to instill a renewed vibrancy that pays homage to the long lineage of leaders who once called these neighborhoods home. Our strategic focus on land acquisition near greenspaces underscores our commitment to these areas as invaluable community assets.  Sitting next to Carrie, Rosario and Annie, I was inspired by our community’s united efforts to elevate these parks as beacons of progress and symbols of hope. These greenspaces stand as testaments to our collective resilience and determination to forge a brighter, more inclusive future for Atlanta’s historic Westside.

Finding Home on the Westside: The Story of Kristen Folsom

 

Kristen Folsom has always felt a connection to the historic Westside. She remembers coming to Atlanta, as a child, to visit her cousin who lived on Fair Street.

“I knew then that I wanted Atlanta to be my home and I wanted to be in this area,” said Folsom.

She eventually pursued her dream of moving to Atlanta, attending Spelman College in the early to mid-90s. From there, Folsom stayed in the city working in media and communications as a journalist and eventually in the field of public health.

Folsom’s connection to her alma mater introduced her to Westside Future Fund’s (WFF) signature program Home on the Westside. Folsom received an email from former Spelman College president and WFF Board Chair Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum sharing information about opportunities for homeownership within the historic Westside for those with live, work, and learn connections to the community.

“I got connected [to the HOTW team] at Westside Future Fund and started looking at houses,” said Folsom. “Tameka [WFF’s HOTW manager] was really good about telling me what was going on in the neighborhood.”

Folsom received $20,000 in down-payment assistance for her home. She’s grateful not only to live in the community she loves but also to have access to greenspace like Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park.

“When I walked through the doors I knew this was going to be my home. I liked it because of where it’s situated on the street. I also love that the [floorplan] is so open, beautiful, and inviting,” said Folsom.

Now in her home since Fall 2023, Folsom is excited about connecting with her neighbors and the continued restoration of these historic communities.

“I can envision, even with the torn down and dilapidated buildings, someone is going to have a home there one day,” said Folsom. “I’d like for more people to learn about Westside Future Fund and how they can be involved and be part of this neighborhood.”

WFF’s mission to advance a compassionate approach to equitable revitalization is achieved through the support of our philanthropic partners. The organization has launched Our Next Chapter, a capital fundraising campaign to accelerate its ability to create affordable housing for legacy and future residents of the historic Westside and to restore these storied neighborhoods as part of the fabric of Atlanta. Become a part of Our Next Chapter.

March Summit Recap: MLK, Jr. Drive Corridor Revitalization & Preservation with Atlanta Way 2.0

Community leaders, stakeholders, and special guests convened at The Gathering Spot for Westside Future Fund’s March 15 Transform Westside Summit to discuss the revitalization and preservation of the MLK, Jr. Drive Corridor. Hosted by John Ahmann and Ebony Ford, the event featured insightful discussions and presentations aimed at driving positive change in the historic Westside neighborhoods.

The morning began with a moving devotion led by Rev. Dr. Herman Skip Mason, Historic West Mitchell Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s Senior Pastor,  highlighting the many contributions of Black women in celebration of Women’s History Month. The devotion featured Rev. Mason’s extensive photography archive filled with beautiful portraits of the women who shaped Atlanta. Maria Saporta, renowned journalist and founder of SaportaReport, moderated the Summit’s featured presentation on Atlanta Way 2.0, a nonprofit founded by Saporta. Panelists for the discussion included special guests Anne Cramer, IBM’s retired director of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, and Board Chair for Atlanta Way 2.0, and Rev. Dr. Herman “Skip” Mason.

Community Engagement and Inclusivity

“Community engagement and inclusivity looks like this room. You are the activators, the advocates, the people who have made things happen,” Anne Cramer

The leading activation for the Atlanta Way 2.0 movement is the revitalization of the MLK corridor. According to Saporta, the nonprofit’s purpose is to bring all stakeholders together to address issues in the community. In addition to Cramer, former Atlanta Mayors Ambassador Andrew Young and Shirley Franklin are also part of the board’s leadership. The “Atlanta Way” is a phrase referring to the collaboration between Black and white political and business leaders during the 1940s – late 1960s. Throughout the Summit, attendees engaged in meaningful dialogue, exploring collaborative strategies and innovative approaches to address the challenges and opportunities within the corridor. Cramer highlighted the importance of community engagement and inclusivity in the Atlanta Way 2.0 movement, emphasizing the role of each individual as an activator for positive change.

Benefits to Westside Residents

“We’re not going anywhere… we have some wonderful plans about what we want to see on that corridor,” Skip Mason

The discussion emphasized how Atlanta Way 2.0 and the MLK corridor revitalization efforts will directly benefit Westside residents by creating opportunities for economic growth, job creation, and community development.

Historical Preservation

The project’s focus on historical preservation aligns seamlessly with the Westside Future Fund’s ongoing efforts to honor and protect the community’s heritage. By preserving landmarks like Gaines Hall and revitalizing the MLK corridor, the initiative not only revitalizes physical spaces but also preserves the cultural identity and historical significance of the historic Westside neighborhoods.

Call to Action

The Summit concluded with a call to action, urging participants to become activators and continue the work of revitalization and preservation in the historic Westside neighborhoods. Attendees were encouraged to “join the movement,” knowing that these efforts will have a lasting and positive impact on the community for generations to come.

Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.

Reflections Of Rev. Dr. Leroy Wright: A Spiritual Calling And A Life of Service On The Historic Westside

Reverend Leroy Wright has always known there was a spiritual calling on his life. While he did not officially join the clergy until his forties, he has been in service to the community, and the historic Westside, throughout his life.

Originally from Savannah, Rev. Wright moved to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College where he studied business administration and psychology. During his time as a student, he began to learn about Civil Rights protests taking place around the community, as professors and students organized to speak out against systemic racism against Black people. Rev. Wright was looking for job opportunities when he saw a notice that the Atlanta Police Department was hiring.

“A lot of us at Morehouse were first-generation college graduates; we didn’t have any money and we needed a job,” said Rev. Wright. “This was after the race riots [The 1967 Atlanta riots]. There was so much damage done to our communities and the Jewish businesses that provided credit and support to our neighborhoods.”

Rev. Wright officially joined the department in 1969 with the crime prevention unit focused on community service. After a few months, he was one of three Black men the department sent to the police academy and later became part of the riot control task force and various foot beats. He was also assigned to be a patrol wagon driver transporting people to jail. His last foot beat, with the force, was Vine and Magnolia.

During his time as an officer, he experienced discrimination from white policemen within the department. “I remember my superiors saying, ‘Boy what are you doing here?’” when I went to use the telephone in the squad room after my shift was over,” recalls Wright.

Looking to create change to the conditions for Black officers, he became part of the early effort to form the Afro-American Patrolman League, which helped bring equality in hiring, promotions, assignments, and working conditions for Black people within the Atlanta Police Department. After the creation of the Afro-American Patrolman League, he was drafted into the military and served as a Military Police Officer in the Army stationed in Fort Collins, Colorado for two years.

Following his military service, Rev. Wright went back to APD hoping to return to the force but found that his involvement with the Afro-American Patrolman League meant he would be blackballed from automatically rejoining the department. When he returned to Atlanta’s Westside, he was shocked by how much the neighborhood had declined in just a few years.

“It had changed – so much [of the neighborhood] had died. Vine and Magnolia used to be jumping – it used to have clubs, stores, a beauty shop, cab stand, Joe’s BBQ, and Rainbow drive in,” said Rev. Wright.

In the height of the 50’s and 60’s the historic Westside was home to nearly 50,000 residents. Today, after decades of disinvestment and depopulation, the current community size is 16,000.

Rev. Wright eventually took a job with Atlantic Building Systems, a division of Atlantic Steel, becoming the first Black person they hired to be on staff. He spent the next few decades of his life working as a businessman and entrepreneur.

It would be years later when the spiritual calling on his life would finally be answered. Rev. Wright and his family were attending Sunday service at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in East Point when the pastor, Rev. Earl L. Calloway called him to the pulpit. Rev. Wright obliged, unsure of the pastor’s true request. The following Sunday he returned to the church, again sitting in the pew with his family when he was once again called to the pulpit by the senior pastor.

“He said ‘Roy, didn’t I tell you to come up here? I’m not going to tell you anymore,’ recalls Rev. Wright. “And that was the beginning of my pastoral journey. I said to myself if I am going to be in the pulpit then I need some theology education.” Rev. Wright attended the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) completing his master’s degree and later his doctorate in theology.

After serving for several years as part of church leadership at St. Stephen, Rev. Wright became the head pastor of First Thessalonian Missionary Baptist Church in 2011. The church was formed in June 1957 – it was originally a prayer band led by Rev. W. H. Waldon Jr. in his home. Later that year the band formed into a Mission and when it outgrew the apartment of the Rev. Waldon Jr. the members agreed to organize a church. Its first physical location opened in 1958 at 928 West Fair Street. It has been at its current location at 637 Joseph E. Boone Blvd for nearly 57 years. Today, the church’s congregation is made up of thirty-five members, many of whom no longer live in the historic Westside but still feel connected to their church home. The church has had several outreach efforts for the community including an annual block party. They also feed the community every 4th Saturday in partnership with St. Stephens MBC.

Westside Future Fund is grateful to Rev. Wright and all the community leaders and legacy residents who are a critical part of the vibrant history and future of the historic Westside. If you are interested in supporting the First Thessalonian and its community outreach efforts, please contact Rev. Wright via email at ftmbc@1thes.com.

Empowering Change: Reflecting on the Impact of Westside Future Fund’s Volunteer Corps in 2023

In 2023, Westside Future Fund’s Volunteer Corps went hands-on in our mission to revitalize the Historic Westside. With 2,270 dedicated volunteers contributing a staggering 6,810 hours of service, their commitment translated into a remarkable $216,558 in value of volunteer hours invested into the community.

This tremendous impact was made possible thanks to special events, community events, and corporate events that united our community behind a common cause to transform the Westside into a community Dr. King would be proud to call home.

“Volunteers have made a huge impact on the Westside. Their contribution of their time and energy have helped to change the quality of life for our community. I can see the difference their efforts have made,” said Raquel Hudson, Volunteer Director for Westside Future Fund.

The year of meaningful service kicked off with the MLK Day of Service last January as volunteers paid tribute to the Westside’s own Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in nearly a dozen service projects throughout the Westside community. Weeks later, the Earth Day Community Clean-Up saw volunteers uniting to beautify streets, parks, and public spaces, removing tons of litter and fostering a cleaner, healthier neighborhood.

The second annual “Ride for the Westside” in September not only promoted health and fitness, but also raised essential awareness and funds for community projects, demonstrating the strength of collective action as cyclists, runners, walkers, and volunteers joined together to rally behind our mission.

In the spirit of the holidays, the WFF Volunteer Corps came together in support of children and families of the historic Westside. In November, the Thanksgiving Meal Delivery program in partnership with Hudson Grille provided meals to 262 households supporting a total of 838 individuals in need. In the days leading up to Christmas, WFF’s Holiday Gift Giving event distributed toys to 220 youth, bringing joy and good tidings to homes throughout our community.

“WFF’s volunteer program is more than just volunteers. WFF’s commitment to the communities it serves is constant. The impact to our community has been invaluable,” said Annie Moore, leader of the local Friends of the Park serving Lindsey Street Park and Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park.

The impact of the Volunteer Corp wasn’t limited to special events – the program regularly engaged community volunteers in an additional 20 events throughout the year. Bingo at the senior center, field days at schools, and fall festivals brought the community together, fostering connections and providing moments of joy for all ages. Monthly community clean-ups were a highlight, with volunteers filling a remarkable 30 30-yard dumpsters with trash. In total, 90 tons – 198,416 pounds – of waste were removed, revitalizing entire blocks and vacant lots while contributing to a cleaner, safer environment for Westside residents. 

The WFF’s Volunteer Corp received tremendous support from 18 corporate sponsors who held a total of 20 volunteer events in partnership with the organization through 2023. These corporate events were not just about financial support – they symbolized a collaborative effort between the private sector and the community, demonstrating that positive change is achievable when various stakeholders come together with a shared vision. Thank you to those who joined and offered their time for the betterment of our community: 

AT&T
Chick-fil-A
Cognizant
Dematic
Equifax
FirstKey Homes
GA Power
Grant Thornton
Hudson Grille
NCR
Novelis
PNC
PwC
The Coca-Cola Company
The Home Depot Foundation
Warner Media
WM Events
Workday Atlanta

The WFF Volunteer Corps made 2023 a year to remember, leaving an indelible mark on the historic Westside community. Through their dedicated efforts, they demonstrated the power of collective action and the transformative impact of volunteerism. 

2024 is only just beginning, but it’s looking to be a record year for the program, and we could use your help. Visit www.westsidefuturefund.org/volunteer today to view upcoming volunteer opportunities and get involved today.

Finding Home on the Westside: The Story of Raymond Hill

Raymond Hill has been a resident of the historic Westside for decades. He and his family, including his mother and siblings lived in the area for many years during his youth. When Hill became a father with a family of his own, he remained in the neighborhood while raising his children. Over the last three decades, Hill resided at the apartment complex on Oliver Street, which over the years fell into decline and ultimately became an unsafe dwelling for its tenants.  Last year, Hill, who lives with a disability, learned that the apartment complex had been sold to Westside Future Fund (WFF).  Preparing for his move, Hill says he searched Atlanta looking for affordable apartments.

“At the first of the year I went looking for apartments and I must have covered all of Northwest, Southwest and Northeast Atlanta,” said Hill. “I couldn’t find a place in my budget. God sent an angel, that was Westside Future Fund, came to me and said you had a place for me that was right around the corner .”

Hill learned of  WFF’s Home on the Westside program and later moved into a new multifamily property — 400 Paines Ave, which opened in the winter of 2023. The apartment includes six units including a mix of 1 and 2 bedrooms and an ADA accessible unit. It is also located near Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park; developing high-quality affordable housing near greenspace has been a key part of WFF’s land acquistion strategy. Hill says he’s grateful to the organization for helping him find a home in the community he loves.

“In my new apartment it’s like I’m in the Jetsons or the future and I just left prehistoric times,” said Hill. “I can’t thank the Westside Future Fund enough — I’m grateful.”

400 Paines Avenue is one of three multifamily properties WFF opened last year in the English Avenue neighborhood.  The 21 new high-quality affordable housing units are in addition to WFF’s existing portfolio of 181 units and represent over $30 million worth of investment in multifamily projects completed, and underway. Each of the newly opened multifamily properties are fully rehabbed existing buildings. The building sites were previously blighted and vacant. They have been renovated instead of torn down to preserve the historic character of the community.  Rents for these apartments will serve people at 60 percent area median income (AMI) or less, and all of the projects will feature Homeflex project-based rental assistance from Atlanta Housing.

WFF is currently developing an additional 104 high-quality, affordable housing units, in both new construction projects and substantial project rehabs, throughout its service footprint.

WFF’s mission to advance a compassionate approach to equitable revitalization is achieved through the support of our philanthropic partners. The organization has launched Our Next Chapter, a capital fundraising campaign to accelerate its ability to create affordable housing for legacy and future residents of the historic Westside and to restore these storied neighborhoods as part of the fabric of Atlanta. Become a part of Our Next Chapter.

Empowering Our Community: Westside Future Fund’s 2023 Impact Report Unveils Transformative Progress

Westside Future Fund (WFF) has released our 2023 Impact Report, unveiling a wealth of organizational achievements through the calendar year as the organization pushes forward into Our Next Chapter for the historic Westside. We’re excited to share our progress in making our vision a reality. 

Building Community with Transform Westside Summits

We welcomed hundreds of attendees from throughout Atlanta to the Gathering Spot last year as we united once a month for a moment of congregation and unity for the Westside. The signature gathering featured local and national leaders including: T. Dallas Smith, Founder & CEO of T. Dallas Smith & Company and WFF 2024 Board Chair; Roz Brewer, former CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance and former Chair of Spelman College Board of Trustees; and Angel Cabrera, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

New Places to Call Home

WFF made tremendous strides in its commitment to create and maintain affordable housing for legacy residents and individuals with live, work, and learn connections to the historic Westside. Three new multifamily developments were opened in English Avenue, creating 21 high-quality 1- and 2-bedroom units. WFF also celebrated closings on 10 single-family homes in the community, transforming blighted properties into long-term residences. We continued to support longtime residents of the community through the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund, providing $125,000 in critical assistance to those challenged by surging property taxes. 

As the year came to a close, WFF broke ground on a development project at 839 Joseph E. Boone Blvd which will bring 33 new multifamily units and 1,200 square feet of retail space in a highly-trafficked corridor of the community adjacent to Rodney Cook Sr. Park. Proximity to greenspace is a sought-after quality and focus of the WFF real estate acquisition team as they work to create higher levels of walkability and park access throughout the neighborhood.

Building Community at 970 Jefferson

Throughout 2023, WFF focused on activating the 970 Jefferson headquarters in partnership with Food Well Alliance as a community center adjacent to the Atlanta Beltline connector that brings like-missioned organizations together for collaborative planning and service delivery. The effort brought together people from across the community for events including Giving Tuesday and the second annual Ride for the Westside, which doubled its attendance since its inaugural year prior. 

Hands on Impact

The WFF Volunteer Corps united corporate groups, individuals, and residents with opportunities to get hands-on helping the Westside. From monthly Community Clean-Ups to annual events, our Volunteer Corps showed up for the community. The effort engaged 2,270 volunteers acrossr nearly 50 events, providing $216,558 worth of value invested into the community through volunteer hours. 

Launching Our Next Chapter

The Our Next Chapter capital campaign kicked off at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters in August 2023, hosted by John Murphy, President and CFO of The Coca-Cola Company. The $55 million campaign goal will enable WFF to activate another $45 million from its Impact Fund in addition to $10 million in public grants for strategic land acquisitions to fulfill its quality affordable housing targets by 2028. This investment will have impact for generations—one of economic mobility and neighborhood health and stability.

See the Numbers

To learn more, view the 2023 Impact Report: Making The Vision Reality here.

February Summit Recap: AT&T Bridging the Digital Divide, Connecting to Greater Possibilities

Westside residents, community members, and business leaders attended the February 16 Transform Westside Summit to hear from Venessa Harrison, AT&T’s Coastal States President, and the pivotal role of corporate partnerships, particularly with AT&T, in driving neighborhood restoration efforts.  

Dr. Kimberley Hundley, Behavioral Health Specialist, House of Cherith and Home on the Westside homeowner led the devotion.  John Ahmann, Westside Future Fund President and CEO, moderated the discussion.

Key Moments from the Conversation

A video showcased AT&T’s initiative to distribute 500 laptops to Westside students, bridging the digital divide and providing vital resources for education and connectivity. The emotional impact on families and students was evident, with expressions of gratitude and excitement at the opportunity for enhanced learning and independence. A panel discussion featuring Venessa Harrison, Robert Williams, M. Agnes Jones Elementary School Principal, and Larrie King, a parent of a student who received a laptop, provided further insights. 

Harrison has worked at AT&T for more than 40 years and currently leads the company’s strategy, policy, and corporate affairs activities, as well as guides governmental and community policy decisions in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. During the discussion, she emphasized the company’s commitment to closing the digital divide through continued collaboration and investment in infrastructure and educational initiatives. 

“I grew up in low-income housing projects. And this community [the historic Westside] reminds me of my community. So I felt like I was giving back using AT&T’s resources to be able to make an impact in the community,” said Harrison. “I believe that affordable housing and internet access are two of the most critical things that you need. You can’t close the digital divide if you don’t have a home for our people to live in.” 

Principal Williams highlighted the transformative impact of technology on student learning, emphasizing the importance of partnerships with industry experts to enhance educational experiences.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive from our students, as well as our families when we look at the opportunity to be able to access a variety of different apps and create their own timeline at their own pace,” said Williams. “The students can extend their learning at home, and they’re really able to explore all their different interests and know that there are really limitless opportunities out there that are now available to our families.”

Larrie King shared her family’s experience with receiving a tablet, emphasizing its positive impact on her daughter’s self-esteem and academic independence. 

“When she came home and let us know she won a laptop, you just saw the excitement in her eyes, and it built her self-esteem up,” said King. “It gave her that independence at home, where before she and her brother were working on two different assignments with access to only one device. She’s now able to access apps she uses at school at home so she can work independently on her own time.” 

Collaboration emerged as a central theme, with panelists expressing appreciation for Dan Cathy’s advocacy and emphasizing the importance of ongoing community engagement and networking. The Summit concluded with a call for continued collaboration and gratitude for the transformative efforts underway in the Westside community.

Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.

Former U.S. HUD Secretary Cisneros Calls WFF’s Revitalization Model ‘Best In The Nation’

Westside Future Fund (WFF) was honored to host former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Mayor of San Antonio Henry Cisneros, and a delegation from San Antonio, including ESTAR West, at WFF’s headquarters earlier this year. The delegation included 35 leaders from the Westside of San Antonio, across industries including education, neighborhood groups, city government, economic development, and housing development.

The group came to Atlanta to hear from City of Atlanta officials, transit experts and leaders on affordable housing about best practices for neighborhood revitalization. Cisneros is the chairman of ESTAR, a neighborhood effort in San Antonio described as “the poorest Census tract of the city”. The effort intends to lead with economic development and entrepreneurship initiatives to help spur revitalization within the community.

“I’ve been looking for the best places where we could model ourselves,” said Cisneros. “I read a McKinsey interview [highlighting the work of Westside Future Fund] and it was so powerful in describing precisely the things that we were interested in that I said the best thing we could do is go to Atlanta and see for ourselves.”

The multi-day visit included discussions and a tour of WFF’s service footprint within the historic Westside including English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights, Atlanta University Center and Just Us. WFF leadership had the opportunity to share the organization’s model for equitable neighborhood revitalization and its signature program Home on the Westside focused on retention of residents with key ties to the community (live, work, and learn), and restoring the historic Westside to a mixed-income neighborhood where all residents have the opportunity to prosper.

Cisneros praised WFF for its “innovative” approach of intentional neighborhood planning with input from the community (the Westside Land Use Framework Plan), land acquisition near key neighborhood assets such as green space and engaging private-public partners.

“As HUD Secretary I visited every one of the 50 states and 200 different cities, looking for places that are doing the best job at the neighborhood, block, and site level of revitalizing a neighborhood,” said Cisneros. “What I’ve found is that the Westside Future Fund is doing it better than anybody else.”

WFF is currently in the midst of its Our Next Chapter capital campaign aiming to raise $55 million in philanthropic dollars to help unlock another $45 million in low-cost financing from its Impact Fund and leverage $10 million in public grants to complete its quality affordable housing goals established in 2017. In this next chapter, WFF plans to:

  • Develop 285 multifamily units, of which 185 will serve families at 60% Area Median Income (AMI) and less.
  • Build 225 single-family homes with accompanying income-qualified down-payment assistance, and
  • Continue supporting the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund to help legacy resident homeowners stay in the community

Learn more about Westside Future Fund’s signature affordable housing program Home on the WestsideClick here to partner with WFF for Our Next Chapter.