Printed in Greensboro News & Record – September 27, 2019
Twenty years ago, Partnership Village started as a dream to help local homeless individuals transition into permanent housing.
The idea for Partnership Village was innovative for Greensboro two decades ago. It started with a donation of nine acres of land from the Taylor family, and a creative blending of taxpayer and private money along with a commitment from Greensboro Urban Ministry and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro. Now run by Greensboro Urban Ministry, with three on-site staff members and supported by a small band of volunteers, Partnership Village provides transitional housing while allowing participants an opportunity to work toward self-sufficiency goals.
Joel Graves said Partnership Village was the right place at the right time in his life. Graves had been in and out of Greensboro Urban Ministry because he had lost his home to foreclosure and had no place to live. He was also addicted to drugs. Graves moved to Partnership Village, which he said had everything he needed to get his life back together. With the encouragement and kindness of Larry King, the on-site case manager, Graves started to attend the weekly support group and took a long, sober look at his life and decided to make some changes. Graves said he has been clean for five years, owns a house, volunteers at the jail and hospice and says “life is good!”
Partnership Village, located on Greenbriar Road, consists of 32 studio apartments; 24 three-bedroom apartments; and 12 two-bedroom apartments. Approximately 150 people, including nearly 75 children, live in this little neighborhood. Members of the Partnership Village community participate in any number of programs to help move them toward self-sufficiency and affordable housing. Now 20 years after the initial opening, this ministry costs $334,636 a year to run.
Elreta Rhymer said that when she came to Partnership Village she was reluctant and not ready to listen to what was being offered. In the beginning, she and King “bumped heads” until one day, explained Rhymer, King simply said: “We are here to get you ready to transition out of here — but you need to listen to us.”
Something snapped and she decided to pay attention and figure out a way “to secure my own roof.” She and her husband went to credit classes, figured out how to deal with their debt and last June they bought a house. Rhymer said they needed the firm guidance offered at Partnership Village to make better choices and move toward independent living.
Gin Reid Hall, director of Partnership Village since 2016, said that the staff helps residents remove barriers to residential stability and offer programs to increase skills. The ultimate goal, Hall said, is for individuals to become independent and to qualify for conventional housing. This strength-based program has case management and other supportive services as its foundation.
Myron Wilkins, executive director of Greensboro Urban Ministry, said, “With support from the Greensboro community, we are able to make a lasting difference in the lives of our neighbors who are hemmed in by the realities of poverty and homelessness through the ministry of Partnership Village.”
Mike Sasser, a volunteer at Partnership Village, along with the Rev. Andrei Spells and Dave Stricker, saw a need to do something for teenage boys at Partnership Village. They started a mentoring program which meets weekly at Guilford Park Presbyterian Church for basketball, food, conversation and homework. Sasser believes by offering such programs to children, perhaps the cycle of poverty can be eliminated.
Janet Mackenzie, a longtime volunteer, tutors the children twice a week during the school year.
“I do think the village is an amazing little community that offers families a real-life chance to get back on their feet,” she said. “I’m honored to be a small part of the fabric that is there to support them.”
Judy Newlin, a volunteer from Guilford College Methodist Church, said Partnership Village, with its comprehensive approach, gives people a hand up and chance to change their lives. “The supportive services, opportunities for better jobs through enhanced education and training, programs for children, subsidized rent are unique not only to Greensboro but also rare to find in the United States,” Newlin said.
King has provided case management services for the program at Partnership Village since the community opened in 1999. He said the program was established through true community partnerships, with the vision and focus of serving households experiencing homelessness.