Teresa Guaba is Taking Action and Helping to Restore Abandoned Homes
The community consultant and founder of Neighbors 4 Revitalization advocates for the restoration of abandoned properties in the West End and South Side of Providence.
Teresa Guaba remembers, as a teen, walking past abandoned properties in her South Side of Providence neighborhood on her way to school. She says the deteriorating homes made her believe no one cared about her community. Some of those neglected properties still stand today, and that’s what inspired her to take action as an adult.
Guaba is the force behind Neighbors 4 Revitalization (N4R), a community organization of West End and South Side residents who advocate for the restoration of abandoned properties in their neighborhoods. Of her efforts with N4R, Guaba says, “Two years were spent laying the groundwork and organizing neighbors to come together and four years were spent strategizing and advocating to get properties addressed.”
Before taking on this role, Guaba previously received her honors in marketing from Johnson and Wales University. She transitioned out of a marketing position at a robotics company after meeting Latina factory workers who, to Guaba, seemed proud to see someone like their daughters, nieces and granddaughters in her position. But then it dawned on Guaba: She worked for a tech company designed to displace their jobs.
Growing up in the Chad Brown housing complex and on the South Side of Providence and inspired by her mother’s love for education, Guaba left that job and became a community liaison, then a project manager, at Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC) in Providence. With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the CYC surveyed about 5,000 students on the West End and South Side and found that housing instability was their biggest concern. At the time, the foundation did not have programs that addressed housing.
Encouraged by her mentor, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, and with a green light from CYC, Guaba began organizing with community members. It became evident that adults were just as concerned about housing in their communities as the youth.
N4R created a database of about 700 sites in the South Side and West End, neighborhoods that also have the highest concentration of poverty. Guaba led the charge by sending lists of the properties to the solicitor’s office to go through the city’s receivership program, which addresses abandoned residences in Providence. She sat in on meetings to keep the city moving, in addition to attending court hearings and writing letters to judges on behalf of particular properties.
Over a two-year period ending in June of 2017, Guaba and N4R’s advocacy led to the revitalization of 93 Superior Street as a multifamily home. The Providence Revolving Fund will soon restore another property on Sackett Street. Guaba continues to stay involved through consulting.
“In terms of what my place is with N4R today, I act as a resource for the community leaders who make up N4R and continue to put forth efforts to maintain a healthy sense of community in Providence,” says Guaba, who daylights as a realtor and offers consulting for agencies related to advocacy around the creation of housing, community building and revitalization.
Because of this work, young people will walk past homes that were once abandoned, now renovated into housing for local families, and feel proud of their community.