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Navigating United Neighborhoods: Grier Heights

Through the United Neighborhoods initiative, United Way serves more than 50 neighborhoods across greater Charlotte. This blog series dives deeper into the history of each United Neighborhoods community and highlights the residents and community quarterbacks that fuel the vision for the future.

The Grier Heights neighborhood was founded in the 1890s by Sam Billings, a former enslaved Black man. Being the first Black man in Mecklenburg County to buy land, he bought about 100 acres, with four houses, that started as a farming community and eventually became known as Grier Heights.

“He was very committed to farming, very committed to community, very committed to having a space in place where people who had been enslaved probably 10-20 years prior to his founding of the community didn’t have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential,” Executive Director of CrossRoads Corporation Tiffany Capers said.

After Mr. Billings acquired the property, the community grew rapidly as people began to live there. The Grier family came along, specifically Arthur Grier, as a developer in the neighborhood and began building homes for soldiers returning from World War II in Grier Heights. At that time, Black people could not live just anywhere in the city, but they could live in Grier Heights.

“Now, the community houses around 3,000 people, making it around 1,200 households strong.” Capers said.

Grier Heights was one of the first two partner communities in United Way of Greater Charlotte’s United Neighborhoods initiative, launched in 2017. Through United Neighborhoods, United Way works alongside the community quarterback to convene and provide funding to nonprofits whose services address the needs identified by residents.

As a Community Quarterback with United Neighborhoods, CrossRoads Corporation is able to work collaboratively with nonprofit partners to bring in the best programs and services for its residents in the community, whether they relate to health and wellness, housing needs, education or social community cohesion.

One of the larger focus areas in Grier Heights is in housing; in order to keep homeownership accessible, CrossRoads Corporation has a Housing Assistance program, which aims to provide affordable housing options for individuals and families with limited income. Aside from improving economic mobility, this program ensures that they are honoring the legacy of Grier Heights’ vibrant and historic community.

Capers and her team at CrossRoads work hard to ensure they are constantly communicating with residents, hearing their concerns and figuring out how to best move forward in improving their community.

Like many other communities in Charlotte, Grier Heights faces certain challenges, including getting residents to believe they are deserving of the best quality of life possible. Capers makes it a point to stand behind residents and support them as they progress in the programs.

CrossRoads Corporation knows the complexity of its community and its work as a place-based initiative, striving to address a variety of resident-identified needs within the community in order to create lasting change for generations to come.

Meet Tiffany Capers and learn more about CrossRoads Corporation’s role as a community quarterback.

Learn more about the work United Way is doing through United Neighborhoods today.