“Providence is a nonprofit real estate development organization operating in a for-profit world,” says President and CEO Terri North. “While other companies certainly do good work, the difference is in the holistic way we look at our portfolio. We’re not only building homes; we’re building a better community for residents.”
Terri is a founding member of the organization. She says: “I began this work 20 years ago. I was a consultant for the Archdiocese of New Orleans when we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. As soon as phones were available, I got a call to get to Baton Rouge to help. In addition to housing, the Archdiocese of New Orleans had so many things to address. In conversation with Jim Kelly and Charlotte Bourgeois, I suggested the idea of Providence to handle the housing side, and that’s how it was born.”
As a leader in a male-dominated industry, Terri has learned to stay true to herself. “Working with investors and bankers that are often male, I have learned that my leadership style is just to be me. I tried to ‘harden’ myself when I took the position as CEO in 2011, but that wasn’t genuine. I’m a little more casual and sometimes emotional, but I can definitely stand my ground and get my point across.”
In just 13 years, Providence has provided over 2,100 people throughout the GNO area with a quality place they can afford and has helped 600 families realize the dream of homeownership through the purchase of their own home. Providence’s portfolio encompasses properties dedicated to seniors, to individuals and families and to artists and cultural ambassadors. To date, Providence’s major partners have included the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Enterprise Community Partners, Columbia Residential and Artspace.
Last fall, Providence Community Housing and Columbia Residential opened Sacred Heart at St. Bernard, a redevelopment of the former Sacred Heart Church with a new four-story building added to the site. Together, the community now boasts 53 one- and two-bedroom apartment homes, a community living room, meeting rooms, gym, and business office. The community also houses 826 New Orleans, a nonprofit youth creative writing group.
“Being able to see the positive effects on our residents makes it all worth it. Sometimes that can get lost because projects take a long time to come to fruition. Yet, seeing Sacred Heart at St. Bernard residents live in their new homes and kids going into 826 New Orleans is very rewarding,” says Terri. “Ensuring all New Orleanians have access to quality rental homes they can afford is central to our mission.”
In addition to her work through Providence, Terri’s passion for the affordable housing realm reaches both local and national levels. She is chair of the Enterprise Community Leadership Council and serves on the Enterprise Community Partners National Board, Executive Committee of the Board for the Louisiana Association of Affordable Housing Providers, and Chateau de Notre Dame Nursing Home Board of Directors. Terri is also a member of the Advisory Council for Urban Land Institute Louisiana. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and the NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.