David Howard isn’t like many other developers. When he buys a building, it isn’t with the thought of how much money he will make off it, but what it can bring to the Stop Six community.

Urban Village Family Services, a nonprofit founded by Howard in 2002, is working on revitalization without gentrification in the Stop Six community. He said he wants to improve the neighborhood without kicking people out, which he coined revitalization without gentrification.

“When nobody was interested in Stop Six, we stayed,” Howard, 60, said. “We put money in the communities and the community in return blessed us and here we are living our dream.”

The parent company of Urban Village, Empower Me, is a program that teaches children in school about nutrition. While in schools, Howard came across children with autism or other learning disabilities and learned a lot about what those children and their parents go through.

So, Empower Me also started working with children with cognitive disabilities, and Howard started investing more in the community, buying up buildings and lots around Rosedale Street. One of those was the building that is now Black Coffee. Urban Village was created through Empower Me to address housing issues in the community.

Urban Village provides housing and other services at an affordable price for those in need. The housing options are diverse and range from small apartments to houses, Howard said. The organization helps with rental assistance so families can afford a place to live, but they provide other services, too.

Urban Village Family Services, a nonprofit, was founded by David Howard in 2002. Howard grew up in California in a neighborhood similar to Stop Six. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

For example, Howard said there is one client who is nonambulatory, so Urban Village helps with their shopping, laundry and other needs.

Another client, Sarah Jacques, is able to help pay rent for her and her family with an internship with Urban Village.

The 21-year-old does administrative work and helps with a newsletter, website and social media for Urban Village. She is attending Colorado Technical University online and is studying cybersecurity.

Jacques, her mom and her older cousin live together. Her internship helped give them stability when they were struggling financially. 

“It definitely means a lot,” Jacques said. “It has definitely been a smooth transition for what we’ve been doing in this last situation and versus now.”

Aside from the help Urban Village provided her and her family, Jacques said the community support inspires her.

“I got to see firsthand what community involvement looks like from an organization and the need to reform and persistent interaction with the community,” she said. “So not only was I able to gain more experience hands on but also as an example, you know, to work with closely.”

Some of that community involvement includes gardening and wellness workshops, she said.

One of the community partners Urban Village has is Fort Worth Housing Solutions. Director of Choice Neighborhood Initiative Lachelle Goodrich, 39, said the entities have been working together on projects since 2018.

“I think they are a hidden gem,” Goodrich said. “The reason why I say hidden is because they have not had the big publicity or marketing where they become a household name. Urban Village is on the way to be a household name, especially for the individuals or populations that they serve.”

For Goodrich, revitalization without gentrification means providing access to housing for everyone, no matter what their income level.

How to give

Urban Village is funded by fundraising efforts, private funding from David Howard and donations.

To give, checks can be made out to Urban Village, Cash App to $uknothereal or through Zelle using the number 562-578-7636 or 817-657-9445 

By owning houses and lots, Howard said, he is able to work out ways to help clients eventually buy the homes if they want. Howard wants people to be able to stay in their neighborhood if they want to, versus having to move away because they cannot afford it.

Director Eugene Graham said families have a lease agreement, but everyone has their own plan based on their circumstances.

Howard’s daughter Jocelyn is vice president of Urban Village and said the nonprofit is currently in the process of applying to become a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development landlord or vendor.  

If the application is approved, Urban Village can open up the pool of candidates who can live in their housing, she said. The nonprofit is also working on developing a construction company so it can turn a lot into an apartment complex.

“We’re touching on families that are underserved and underprivileged and making sure that they have housing options,” Jocelyn said. “Within the last year, we’re now able to house possibly 10 or more families, and it’s just so cool to see.”

As Urban Village continues to grow and find ways to continue to serve, Jocelyn said, they are mindful of community needs. But she and her father also try to remain humble and remember other people may still be in situations of poverty, even if she and her father are not anymore.

“It’s important that we help the community revitalize and be focused on what is important, but doing it in a way where they don’t feel like they’re being ostracized or pushed out of the community, and they understand that their best interest is still that at heart,” she said. “And those are some of the big pillars and how we’re able to make some of those decisions. And again, just remembering the value and community partnership, the value in your community.”

The Stop Six community is important to the Howard family. Her father, who is a retired Dallas Cowboys player, wanted to help a community that was underserved, Jocelyn said. He followed city planning meetings and looked at the 30 year plan of the community and wanted to help Stop Six, she said.

Howard grew up in California, and, when he was younger, he did not understand he was growing up in a project. But he said he saw an opportunity in that.

“I’m in competition with the federal government in a roundabout way because they’re coming in underserved communities, and they’re buying property,” he said. “And I look at it like, ‘Well, why can’t I buy property?’ I live in the hood, so to speak, and I want the hood to be revitalized and you need private money. So, there’s opportunity from the federal government housing authority, but you have to be strategic and practice group economics in order to be a player in the game.”

A rise in the cost of living is unavoidable, Howard said. But equity can combat it and help the community. He wants to be able to help families who need it and keep them in the community.

“So it’s a fine line. It comes down to intentions, and my intentions are to be a philanthropist in my community, to be a community leader, to be someone that is a partner in the community,” Howard said. “Staying intentional about your goal is what’s going to make sure that you make the right moves.”

Kristen Barton is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at kristen.barton@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Kristen BartonEducation Reporter

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...

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