- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Residents of the Parkfair Apartments in Northwest still find it hard to believe that the complex where rats roamed and pipes leaked three years ago is now a cozy dwelling.
"You know it's home because it says so on the outside structure, but all the ugliness has been erased," Lucille Coutard, president of the tenants' association for 1611 Park Road NW, said of the first time she returned to the building in January. She had moved there in 1978 with her husband and two children.
Three years ago, the five-story Park Road complex was on the mayor's "hot list" of properties facing condemnation. So the mostly Vietnamese, black and Latino residents started an effort to get the place back in shape.
They succeeded, and yesterday residents were showing off their affordable efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom apartments following a ceremony during which the tan-brick complex was blessed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, head of the Archdiocese of Washington.
Tenants organized meetings that were translated into Vietnamese and Spanish so all could understand how to keep the complex alive. Their efforts culminated in a set of organizations and businesses, including the city government and Victory Housing, the nonprofit affordable housing arm of the archdiocese, carrying out a $4 million renovation project.
Cardinal McCarrick said a project such as this proves the worth of faith-based initiatives and may quiet some critics. He said the complex isn't restricted to tenants who are Catholics or members of other Christian denominations.
"Sometimes [faith-based groups are] the only ones who are willing to help," he said. "If you have faith, you want to do things to help people. You want to make sure everyone has a place to live comfortably and safely and decently."
Mrs. Coutard said she was thrilled with Victory Housing's plans for making the apartments liveable.
"I'm not looking at it from the religion standpoint," Mrs. Coutard said. "I'm looking at it from what Victory Housing said from early on that people shouldn't be living like this."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams, D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and several lawyers, advocacy groups and businesses that helped the tenants in the process attended the grand re-opening.
"This is truly evidence of how a collaboration of a faith-based group and the government can come together," said Stanley Jackson, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.
He called the apartments proof of what the city government can do with the help of groups such as Victory Housing, and said he hopes the city will continue the partnership.
The city and Victory Housing are now working on a senior-housing complex at 14th and Irving streets NW.

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