Revitalizing Hobson

Published 7:54 pm Monday, October 25, 2010

Looking for all the world like new homeowners eager to show a visitor around their first house, John and Nancy Thrower of Hobson recently opened their home to guests visiting the community as part of a celebration.

But the Throwers are not new homeowners. In fact, they’ve lived in Hobson for 27 years. But the home where they spent the vast majority of that time no longer exists. That home had no indoor bathroom, no heat, no air conditioning and no running water. Someone once broke into that home because it appeared to be deserted.

Today, thanks to the Southeastern Rural Community Assistance Project, the Throwers have a new home with amenities that bring their existence to current minimum standards. Officials with the SRCAP hope that the four new homes that have been built in Hobson with the assistance of special grants will prove to be just the first part of the community’s transformation.

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SRCAP is a nonprofit agency that focuses on bringing water and wastewater services, loans, grants and other assistance to rural, low-income families in the seven states it serves, including Virginia.

When SRCAP came to Hobson to install running water a few years ago, John Thrower was one of 13 applicants for a program that would demolish and rebuild their homes. It’s now been a year and a half since the project got under way. The Throwers’ was one of four houses rebuilt in the initial phase.

John Thrower has called the project a “gift from God.”

For the village of Hobson, a community founded by former slaves-turned-watermen, the project must, indeed have seemed like a godsend. Many of Hobson’s homes — despite being located within a stone’s throw of some of the city’s most expensive housing — are among the city’s least structurally sound and livable residences. In fact, Suffolk has threatened to demolish several of them over multiple unresolved code violations.

To make matters worse, some homeowners in Hobson have felt threatened by a process begun by a particular faction of the community that would have resulted in their dilapidated homes being declared part of a historic resource area.

The village has much to be thankful for with the upgrading of the first four homes by SRCAP. Residents and city leaders should do everything they can to encourage this revitalization. It’s time for everyone either to participate in Hobson’s transformation or at least step out of the way and allow it to happen unimpeded.