Going South

Civics and spirituality. Politics and prayer. In the ongoing battle against inertia, Goulds bares the conflicts at its core.

Another property, Walker's Funeral Home on SW 216th Street, was ravaged by Hurricane Andrew and never rebuilt. Though it was the only funeral home in Goulds, Walker says it would be a waste of money to fix up the place. Crackheads have stripped the mirror-paneled interior of the elegant parlor down to the wiring in the walls.

Perhaps Walker's greatest disappointment resulted from her dream of building a 180-bed nursing home in east Goulds. In 1983, after she had bought the land, secured authorization, and broken ground, the state canceled her permit because of a delay in financing. Worse, it wasn't Walker but a former consultant to the project who received notification of the cancellation. Whereupon, she says, the consultant, a white man, offered to pay her to let him take over the project. She refused.

The Moann H. Everett Care Center, too, is testimony to a broken dream. When Everett built the place in 1951 with money Lydia had been saving to build a beauty salon, she called it Goulds Nursing Home. When Lydia came home from the army as a newlywed, her mother asked her to handle bookkeeping for the home. (Moann had dropped out of school in the sixth grade, whereas Lydia had a nursing degree from Florida A & M). Everett ran the home until she had a heart attack in 1977, whereupon Lydia's sister Johnnie Mae Mitchell took over. Lydia continued to do the paperwork, and after Everett died in 1979, the home was renamed after her. Walker became the sole administrator in 1989, but a succession of post-Andrew inspections revealed several code violations that cost her some $10,000 to repair. She filed for bankruptcy, and the Florida Health Care Administration shut down the home this past August, after discovering the building's air-conditioning didn't work.

Walker has written several papers about Goulds history and a small volume about the adjacent neighborhood of Princeton. One of her favorite topics is her father, Johnny "Catman" Everett, a small, fierce man who once held three Klansmen captive after they broke into the family's house to lynch him. According to Walker, the attempted lynching stemmed from Catman's refusal to unload a rum boat during Prohibition -- not because liquor was contraband but because the boat owners didn't plan to pay him for his work. She has a framed black-and-white photograph of that family house, a precariously leaning wooden structure that once stood in the field behind the Goulds Nursing Home.

These days Lydia Walker pursues her long-time hobby, pinochle, playing most evenings at home or in tournaments throughout the state. An elaborate foot-high trophy, a golden hand spreading a golden hand of cards at its top, stands in her living room. She is writing her autobiography, which she has already titled It's a Poor Rat with One Hole, after one of her father's favorite sayings. Catman spoke from experience, Walker says: He kept another woman and a whole other family in Princeton.

Lana Floyd doesn't think a low-income, minority locality such as Goulds is going to solve any of its problems by allowing outsiders to build government-subsidized housing or import the homeless to live in residential areas. "I know there's a need to take care of homeless people," she says, repeating with a determined set to her jaw the argument heard in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods nationwide. "But we shouldn't be the ones to get facilities that other communities wouldn't stand for. You're not going to see one of these places in Coral Gables. If we're not careful, we're going to end up looking like part of Overtown."

A secretary at the Metro-Dade Police Department's Doral station, Floyd was born in Alabama but grew up in Goulds, and is a 1970 graduate of Mays High, which until desegregation began in 1967 was the only South Dade high school open to black students. (Mays is now a middle school.)

Floyd wasn't active in community affairs until the spring of 1994, when she and her neighbors learned that the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services' Juvenile Justice division intended to remodel a compound near their homes into a residential program for criminal offenders. Before the hurricane, it had housed cerebral palsy patients. Floyd helped form the Homeowners Association of Goulds in June of 1994 and began a campaign against the program. She wrote letters to state officials, complaining about what her association saw as a lack of community support for the project. Then she wrote more letters, complaining about rude and condescending treatment she received from the recipients of the first batch. The juvenile justice department eventually agreed to house only 15 girls at the site, not 33 boys and girls as originally planned.

That same summer, Floyd was elected to the Goulds citizens' advisory council for the Community Action Agency -- the group chaired by Odell Johns. When she found out about the two CHI homeless facilities, they were already operating. She was angry that the Dade Homeless Trust had awarded the contract with no public hearing. She questioned whether it was appropriate for Johns to rent property to his own corporation. And when she found out that several members of the CHI board also belonged to the board of the nonprofit corporation that owned the site of the other homeless facility, she said that, too, amounted to a conflict of interest.

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