eeping Detroiters and families in their homes has been the main priority for community development organization U-SNAP-BAC for more than three decades. Linda Smith has led the organization as executive director for the past 22 years. In that time, she has helped grow their staff and secured vital funding to help serve Detroit’s east side neighborhoods.
“We have built over 100 affordable homes on the east side of Detroit,” Smith says. “We’ve done over 1,000 home repair grants within that timeframe. We’ve purchased homes, rehabbed them and resold them.”
U-SNAP-BAC serves as the voice of Detroit’s east side community members when it comes to development and connecting residents to resources.
“We represent the community when they’re deciding to build in the community,” Smith says. “They have to realize that these communities have to be respected. You can’t just build and leave.”
Currently, U-SNAP-BAC is in the process of beginning developing of a green space on Barham Street between Waveney Street and Mack Avenue, which is currently the site of numerous vacant lots and illegal dumping.
Once the project is finished, the street will be transformed into a farm area and greenway that will serve as a community space for those living, working and visiting the area. The first phases of the greenway project were made possible by a $150,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation. Smith says subsequent grants are helping continue the work.
Sticking to its mission of keeping residents in their homes, last year, U-SNAP-BAC took on its first group of residents as part of its buy back program – and they recently completed the program.
“People who have lost their homes to property takes have been able to get them back,” Smith says. “For a year they had to escrow an account for their taxes so when taxes came out July 1, they had the money to pay them.”
In 2013, Smith was appointed to the Blight Removal Task Force by President Barack Obama, along with Dan Gilbert and Glenda Price.
“Not every neighborhood has a community development corporation or a voice to represent them at the table,” Smith says.
Born and raised on the west side of Detroit, Smith admits she didn’t know much about the east side before taking on her current role.
“But it doesn’t matter, because I spend 12-13 hours of my day at U-SNAP-BAC making sure what we’re doing is having an impact in the community that we serve. The minute we stop doing that, then my work is through.”
If you’re interested in learning how you can be part of this effort, visit usnapbac.org or call 313-640-1100.