Myrtle Houchens, a former resident of Friendship Court, is a member of Friendship Court’s redevelopment advisory committee, which was formed in February 2016. The committee will provide guidance to the Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life.
You could say that Myrtle wrote the book on community life at Friendship Court, as the driving force behind establishing the neighborhood’s community center. “It wasn’t just housing,” she says of her 22 years living at Friendship Court (then called Garrett Square), “it was home.” Although she hasn’t lived there for almost a decade, and both of her own children have grown up and graduated from college, Myrtle faithfully returns to “her” Friendship Court community center for several weeks each summer to run a kids’ cafe, providing nightly dinners for the neighborhood’s children.
As a single mother, Myrtle originally moved to the neighborhood from Louisa County in the 1970s to be closer to UVA Medical Center, because her son required regular visits to the hospital. For the past 29 years, Myrtle has worked for Charlottesville schools and parks and recreation, as an instructional assistant (first at Clark Elementary School and now at Venable), and in neighborhood community centers. For her unwavering commitment to others, Myrtle was named one of the Daily Progress’s “distinguished dozen” in 2009. In the paper’s profile, it was noted that “[s]aying ‘no’ just doesn’t seem to be part of Myrtle Houchens’ vocabulary.” The advisory committee is so fortunate that this dynamic and inspiring community advocate has said “yes” to providing leadership in the neighborhood’s redevelopment efforts.