Vietnam veteran Larry Tyus has lived with his sister and nephew in a small two-bedroom in the Shawnee neighborhood of his hometown of Louisville for the past 14 years. During that time, he has seen the area decline to such a level that it was considered the absolute worst neighborhood of the city.
He also has seen its resurrection — due in large part to the work of The Fuller Center for Housing of Louisville. In fact, when the Fuller Center of Louisville formed several years ago, the first thing they did was to ask the city which neighborhood most direly needed help. The city pointed them toward Boston Court in the heart of the Shawnee neighborhood.
Today, when you walk down Boston Court, you see a neighborhood of choice — where once-abandoned homes that were left empty to rot away have been refurbished by The Fuller Center and filled with residents who take pride in their home and have used the stability of having a decent home to better their lives.
Next week, Tyus will become part of the Fuller Center homeowner family when more than 125 volunteers come to Louisville for the 2014 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. A property on North 42nd Street will become Tyus’ new home and is one of six that volunteers will restore.
“I fell in love with it when I first saw it,” said the 61-year-old Tyus, who served in the U.S. Navy during the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the war and is now disabled.
He learned about The Fuller Center from a resident of Boston Court, his good friend Louis Alexander. Alexander’s life was completely transformed when he became a Fuller Center homeowner in December 2011.
“I thought the idea was great,” Tyus said of taking vacant properties and turning them from unwanted eyesores into beautiful, safe homes. “My friend Louis talked about it and talked y’all up. (Click here to read Louis Alexander’s story of transformation.) Then I decided to see if I could get me one. This year, I filled out an application and — thank the Lord — I was eligible.”
Alexander insists his life was changed because he had to work for his opportunity to become a Fuller Center homeowner and because he has to make the zero-percent-interest mortgage payments into the Fund for Humanity to help others become homeowners. Tyus agrees that the hand-up approach to helping people like Alexander and himself is more effective than a handout.
“I think you can’t do away with entitlement programs, but also you can’t carry people,” he said. “People have to learn how to live on their own.”
In addition to the transformation Tyus has seen in his friend and other Fuller Center homeowners, he appreciates how The Fuller Center has helped transform the Shawnee neighborhood that he is proud to call home.
“I am so happy and glad,” Tyus said. “It just fits in with everything we’re trying to do. In the Shawnee neighborhood, we are going through a transformation episode. It just brings life back to this neighborhood and gives people hope.”
That transformation will take a huge step forward next week.
“It is marvelous to see a group of people to be able to bring that many people in and the fact that so many individuals are willing to come here and give up their time so that me and others can have a place to live,” Tyus said. “It’s a dream, but it’s a dream that has come true.”