Before she became president of housing with the South Austin Coalition (SACCC), Theresa Welch-Davis experienced firsthand what many of the community residents who visit her offices have. She had to deal with her own complaints regarding affordable housing.
“About 19 years ago, I moved my family into an affordable housing tenement on Laverne and Washington,” said the 47-year-old mother of two. “It was a beautiful re-habbed apartment building and looked fine when we did the initial walk through. However, once we moved in, the problems with the property began to come to the forefront.”
Davis said she discovered her apartment was inundated with maintenance issues, such as bad piping, poor insulation, rodents and a lack of adequate heating.
“I can remember one time it was so cold in the apartment that there was actually a sheet of ice on the floor,” Davis recalled. “It was like a roller rink.”
Consequently, after weeks of receiving the runaround by then-owners South Shore Bank in the form of endless bureaucracy, Davis contacted SACCC for help.
“There were members of the church that I used to attend who had either volunteered at SACCC or needed the help of SACCC because of their own housing issues,” she said. “When I called and spoke with [SACCC president] Bob Vondrasak, he told me to find out if I could get at least five other individuals in the building who had similar troubles and would be willing to voice them. That would be the only way we could forge ahead.
Davis found 25 and forged ahead.
She led a committee against the housing complex, and through her efforts and the work of SACCC, she was able to receive the work that was so desperately needed throughout the building.
“I am a very vocal person, so I took on the role as the voice of the committee,” said Davis, who was head of the Laverne Washington Court Tenant Council. “We contacted our alderman, sent letters to South Shore Bank and held protests. It was amazing the response we received. It was truly a blessing.”
Impressed by her work in verbalizing the shortcominsg of the property management, Vondrasak requested that she work with SACCC in their housing department. Davis accepted.
Since then, she has become president of that department -a position she’s held for the last 10 years- which allows her to give a voice to those who want what we she had wanted: a safe, affordable and adequately-spacious place to reside.
“I have always had a tremendous amount of passion for helping out those in need, and I see many different types of people on a daily basis,” Davis said. “I handle tenants’ rights questions and tenants who are facing foreclosure, in which I must work with them and their lenders to come up with a budget. I also work with clients who feel as if they have been the victims of predator lenders, especially seniors.”
Davis has since purchased her own home in the Bellwood community, but still retains her passion for assisting those in Austin.
“I lived there for 17 years and have family there, so I will always have an affinity for the community,” said Davis. “I just feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to make such a powerful impact on so many different lives there.”
Welch-Davis is among several Austin community members profiled in the 2007 Austin Community Guide, published on Feb. 8. More profiles from the guide will run in upcoming weeks in the Austin Weekly News.