Photo by Jim Massara
Nkrumah Moore rehabs homes for families in need. “A lot of people who call are facing eviction,” he says.
RIVERDALE — Nkrumah Moore buys foreclosed homes, rehabs them and then makes them available — and affordable — for families who need them.
And the Jonesboro resident has done it without government support so far.
“Everything’s coming out of this,” Moore says, patting his wallet. “This has gotten very skinny.”
Moore, who runs Fresh Start Services — who essentially is Fresh Start Services — is an entrepreneur with an altruistic bent. He moved to Clayton County eight years ago from California, where he tripled his money by “flipping” a home so he could live comfortably.
But three years ago he saw a need in Clayton for cleaning up foreclosed properties and putting people in them who needed them more than the bank did.
Moore now works a graveyard-shift job as a truck driver and rehabs homes at this point for no profit.
If there’s a catch to all of this, it’s not obvious.
“A lot of people don’t believe me,” says Moore, who’s 45 but could pass for younger. “They ask me, ‘For what? Is this some type of scam?’ But when you’ve got what you’ve got and you’ve already got what you need, people make it more complicated than it is.”
Twanna Nelson, project coordinator for MOMS, a parent-support program with the Clayton County Department of Health, says Moore seems to be the real deal.
“He’s the only person I know who’s like that,” says Nelson, who referred a mother needing a place to live to Fresh Start. “People just don’t do things like that any more.”
Hadayai Majeed, who’s based in Conley and runs the Baitul Salaam Network for homeless and battered women with families, says she’s referred “at least a dozen” clients to Moore. She says Moore’s the rare rehabber who will deal with this kind of potential home-buyer.
“Most people will not touch it because it takes a while to get your investment back,” Majeed says.
It works like this: Moore buys an inexpensive foreclosed property, and using his own sweat and the hired help of neighborhood teenagers cleans it up.
He then takes referrals from social-service agencies, screens the applicants and places them if he can.
“A lot of people who call are facing eviction,” Moore says. “A lot of people are sleeping in their cars.”
A new resident pays $250 a month in what can become a rent-to-own arrangement with Moore serving as the bank. The prices are marked up only enough to cover the cost of rehabbing the house. Moore says he’s done that with about 15 houses thus far.
“When they accomplish that objective, they’re handed the deed,” he says. “We teach them how to maintain the home, do the plumbing, how to do this, how to do that, how to keep the neighborhood beautified.”
Moore says that what’s hit him hardest this year — he refers to it as Fresh Start “taking a turn” — is new tenants who weren’t able to handle utilities, leaving him to honor the unpaid bills out of his own pocket. That’s forced him to stop buying new properties for now and turning one property, a tidy starter home in Riverdale, into a “transitional” home where families can live until they get back on their feet.
He’s adamant about working only with families. Moore doesn’t take applications from single males. He also monitors his properties weekly and insists those who occupy them keep them clean.
From Moore’s point of view, everybody wins. People who need a place to live have a place to live. And the houses that would have gone to seed — and the neighborhoods where they are — get a lift.
“We’re dealing with the eyesore houses in the community — the ugly houses,” he says.
Moore himself maintains a frugal lifestyle. With five children still at home and parents elsewhere that he helps support, he drives what he refers to as a “raggedy” Dodge van and invests his money in his properties — and tools.
“The only thing I splurge on, I splurge on tools,” Moore says with a smile. “To me, tools are a very valuable commodity. That’s money. I’ve always made money with tools.”
That money may be getting exceedingly scarce. Moore says Nelson suggested that he apply for grants to help with utilities.
And stress? Moore lifted his T-shirt to show scars from a hernia operation brought on by acid reflux. He was supposed to be at home relaxing — doctor’s orders — but was working on the Riverdale starter home instead.
But Moore doesn’t complain.
“I think we waste a lot in society,” he says. “We can buy nicer stuff, but what for? I can buy a car to get to work and back and support my family. I really don’t need a lot.”
Moore pauses, then adds, “Like I said, I’m poor, but I’m fine.”