Meet Carter McDowell, BHC Co-Founder

Carter McDowell has spent her adult life working to better the lives of her fellow citizens in her adopted city of Richmond.  With Carter’s volunteer training and experience, her determination, and her knowledge of urban communities she was well armed for making a meaningful impact on our community.    In 1988, she joined Mary Tyler McClenahan in starting the Better Housing Coalition which has resulted in transforming many communities in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield and changing the lives of thousands of citizens.

A History of Poverty Inspires McDowell to Initiate Change

Carter McDowell in the front entrance of Carter Woods - a BHC senior community named in her honor

Carter was the first director of BHC and was instrumental in hiring our current CEO, TK Somanath, in 1990.  For the past 20 years Carter has served as the most committed volunteer BHC has – always an advocate as we have grown and today we have transformed 16 communities and have a budget of $14,000,000.

Where you live can change your life.  That was the focal point as Carter started building the Better Housing Coalition.  Carter’s dream remains to de-concentrate poverty and improve race relations by working to eliminate, or at least diminish, segregated communities.  When Carter and the Better Housing Coalition began work in Chesterfield County’s Park Lee Apartments, crime was rampant with more than 1,200 police calls from that community – bad calls – rape, murder – drugs.  Only 50% of the apartments were occupied because of the horrible conditions.

Better Housing Coalition Improves Neighborhoods in Richmond, VA

Today, the community is fully transformed and occupied and in 2008 there were only 155 police calls – and of an entirely different nature – all “good” calls from watchful citizens or false alarms.   The outcomes in changing lives is remarkable – from original children being the first in their families to attend college to their mothers who in 1997 were receiving $6,500 in public assistance who today hold jobs with average salaries of $25,000!   The supports that BHC provides residents are preventative and there have been no teen pregnancies, youth violence or crime, and not one high school dropout.

Metropolitan Richmond communities have greatly transformed for the better since Carter and Mary Tyler founded BHC in 1988.  What changes have stood out to you , and what changes would you still like to see?


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