Take Me to Church: Full Faith and Credit

Jul 2, 2015

Rev. Richard Hamlet, Global Ministries Foundation

There’s a battle going on in New Orleans-East and at the Louisiana Bond Commission, over acquisition of a 442-unit apartment complex known as Hidden Lakes. GMF -- Global Ministries Foundation, based in Memphis, Tennessee --is the buyer.

“We have almost 11-thousand units in eight states, as a faith-based housing development corporation,” GMF president Rev. Richard Hamlet told Louisiana’s Bond Commission last month.

Among those units are nearly 2500 apartments in Louisiana; in Lafayette, Lake Charles, and the greater New Orleans area. GMF is asking the bond commission to guarantee $24.5 million dollars so they can buy, renovate and run Hidden Lakes.  Area homeowner associations have been fighting it, because it’s Section 8 housing. State Sen. Edwin Murray has been facilitating meetings between homeowners’ associations and GMF property management, in an effort to resolve the impasse.

There may be some validity to New Orleans-East residents’ concerns about GMF in particular. Three of the faith-based corporation’s four apartment complexes in Memphis failed HUD inspections in April, with a total of 40 units being declared uninhabitable. June 25 there was a fire at one of those complexes, destroying 8 units.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the city council just passed an ordinance barring GMF from getting housing vouchers until it puts up security fencing and provides security patrols at two of its housing complexes.

Yet GMF properties manager Patrick Coffey says the goal is improving neighborhoods.

“GMF comes in, and they provide housing for folks who need housing,” Coffey said. “They try to establish programs for each one of the folks, and for the kids, and so forth, at each one of those complexes to improve the quality of life.”

GMF’s motto is “Evangelizing. Equipping. Empowering.”  Programs shown on their website include block parties, stating “most block parties are evangelistic in nature.” For children, there’s vacation Bible school on premises, and even baptisms in the apartment complex pool.

“We want people to go from entitlement to empowerment!” Rev. Hamlet declared to the bond commission June 21. “This is an area that really needs our programs!”

The bond commission has been holding off approval since May, because of the community concerns, but has indicated the issue of GMF’s Hidden Lakes purchase will be on its July 18 agenda. Before voting, they might want to consider whether the state can underwrite a loan that will ultimately try and convert government–subsidized renters, right where they live.