By: Eileen Wirth,
President & CEO
Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc. (MEND)
Every April during Fair Housing Month, the nation puts a spotlight on fair housing rights and efforts to end housing discrimination. Today, as our nation is having tough conversations about inequity and the need for change, I see similar parallels to the origins of Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc. (MEND).
Since MEND’s founding in 1969 by nine Moorestown churches, we’ve been ahead of the curve in addressing affordable housing needs in South Jersey suburbs. Mr. Warren Sawyer, founding MEND trustee, shared his thoughts during MEND’s 50th anniversary. He spoke of MEND’s early days, and how our founder Boyce Adams – a man with a vision and sensitive conscious – saw the need for change of housing for citizens living in neglected rowhomes on Beech Street in Moorestown.
Church members convened and discussed ideas for respectable housing. Mr. Sawyer referred to Mr. Adams’ words – “It can be done, and it will be done.”
While it was an uphill battle with many obstacles, including a social attitude against affordable housing, MEND prevailed and began construction of its first apartment development.
Landmark milestones that have paved the way for fair housing include: The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (1945), the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Fair Housing Act (1968). In 1975, the historic Mount Laurel I decision changed the landscape of affordable housing in the Garden State, ordering all New Jersey municipalities to plan, zone for and take affirmative actions to provide realistic opportunities for their “fair share” of the region’s needs for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income people.
Fast forward to 2021. Today, MEND owns and manages 770 apartments in nine South Jersey towns. We take great pride in ensuring that everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity to obtain housing and work in partnership with municipalities to help them fulfill their state-mandated affordable housing obligations.
To this day, we continue to honor Boyce Adams’ dream – “Everyone deserves a decent, safe and affordable place to call home” – and we will continue to work hard to help close the gap for our New Jersey neighbors in need of affordable housing.