Fr. Bob Hess and Sister Rosaria talk with a couple in front of their deteriorating home in the area ultimately replaced by the 38 single family homes of Dehon Village built by Sacred Heart Southern Missions with the help of donors, state and local organizations.
During the 1980’s the first indications of what would become SHSM’s Housing Office appeared. The roofs of ten houses in Walls were repaired. As one resident put it before the repairs were done, “When it rains at night, we all get up. There’s no place big enough to stretch out and not get wet.”
In 1987 the housing ministry in Walls continued to demand attention as the enforcement of sanitation laws caused dozens of evictions of the very poor from houses that were in the main old sharecropper shacks and block houses slowly disintegrating onto the edges of the cotton fields where they stood.
In response to this very real need for housing, SHSM organized a coalition of Mississippi Action for Community Education, Mississippi Home Corporation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and United Way of the Mid-South to raise funds which ultimately provided housing for sixteen families who had been living in the old shacks.
Housing in Walls took a big step forward, however, with the creation of a Master Plan for Dehon Village. The dedication of Dehon Village and the finishing of its first eight houses were highlights of 1995. The final thirty houses in Dehon Village saw completion in 1996.
A happy Dehon villager stands outside the new house which replaced one of several old sharecropper shacks in Walls.
Sacred Heart Southern Missions with the help of several religious sisters’ communities created a Revolving Loan Fund which would provide low-income people with money at very low interest rates to purchase appropriate housing. The Revolving Loan Fund has made obtaining a mortgage and buying a house possible for many who otherwise would not have been able to afford it.
In 1993 Housing also became an area of concern in Tunica as the arrival of the casinos had caused housing costs and rents to rise as much as 200%. With the cooperation and assistance of Sacred Heart Southern Missions the locally organized Tunica County Housing Project completed fifteen single-family dwellings during the year and celebrated the “moving in day” of these new homeowners who had participated in the building of the houses. Ultimately, 61 homes for low-income citizens were built in Tunica.
In the mid-‘90s Sacred Heart Southern Missions also assisted a local group in Hernando to develop a tract of houses in Hernando’s West End.