Zach Waters, Founder & CEO

Zach Waters is the founder and CEO of Homes for Hearts and A Lee Dog Story. Waters was born and raised in Memphis where he developed a strong passion to bring community-driven change. When Zach was a teenager, he befriended a homeless man named Lee Brown, known by many Memphians as “Lee Dog”. Waters watched firsthand as Brown got a “new lease on life” by obtaining housing, employment, transportation and a community of support. 

In 2005, Zach enrolled in Memphis College of Art to pursue a degree in film and animation and soon began filming his first documentary about Memphis. While filming countless Memphian stories, Lee Brown’s was absolutely the most powerful. Zach found countless people that had been left to face homelessness alone on the streets of Memphis and soon realized he would need a lot more resources to ensure his project had a real impact on their lives and the city of Memphis. 

In 2008, Zach helped start a film production company in Memphis that is currently thriving in Los Angeles. Although he is no longer a part of the company, the inception of Prodigi Arts with childhood friend Christopher O’Conner was the beginning of his business and professional film education.

In 2011, Waters moved to Denver to complete his schooling and met his other half, Avalon Yarnes at a small bakery in the center of the city.

In 2018, while Zach was still working as Executive Producer for Avalon Cakes School of Sugar Art, Lee Brown passed away from an infection in his leg, prompting Waters to found A Lee Dog Story, 501(c)(3) nonprofit to engage the public with stories of life on the streets and recovery through the power of art, film and storytelling. Over 2019, after returning to Memphis to film countless new stories, Waters decided he would find a permanent solution to helping Memphians out of homelessness and toward homeownership. 

After a year and a half of research surrounding the causes, effects and solutions of homelessness, in 2020, Zach founded Homes for Hearts, 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Memphis, TN. Through new and existing relationships, Waters developed partnerships with Room in the Inn,  Dwayne A. Jones Construction Company, LLC,  Arch Inc. and Binghampton Community Land Trust to build small, single-family tiny homes throughout the Memphis area, while also offering supportive services to each of their residents as they move off the streets and toward homeownership. 

Reverend Lisa Hall Anderson is a former chaplain at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is the founding executive director of Room in the Inn-Memphis and pastor of Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

After receiving her MDiv from Memphis Theological Seminary, Rev. Anderson completed Clinical Pastoral Education at Veterans Administration Medical Center in Memphis. Rev. Anderson served as Vice President of the Tennessee Chaplains Association and President of the Pediatric Chaplains Network. As director of Room in the Inn-Memphis, she has been involved in advocacy in Memphis and Shelby County for those experiencing homelessness. Under her leadership, the first recuperative care center for medically fragile homeless individuals in the Mid-South was opened this year.

“My education at MTS provided me with a biblically-based opportunity to think theologically about the world. The knowledge and spiritual formation prepared me for being a chaplain and a parish pastor. But it was the way the seminary community put that education into practice that informs the work I do today. MTS taught me to take the truth of the scriptures into the world where I live, seeing Christ in all of those I meet. I have had the privilege to be chaplain, pastor, and advocate because of my seminary education and I’m thankful.”

PARTNERSHIPS

As an architectural engineering graduate for Tennessee State University, licensed general contractor, and residential developer, Dwayne A. Jones has been working for over a decade to bring life back to vacant lots in Orange Mound, the neighborhood he grew up in. Dwayne got the idea to build “tiny homes” while traveling on mission trips to Haiti and seeing people living in smaller homes. In 2015, Dwayne helped build a micro home community in Nashville for people experiencing homelessness. Homes for Hearts has partnered with Dwayne A. Jones Construction Company, LLC to build our small, single-family houses.

Dwayne and his team have completed construction on Homes for Hearts’ first tiny house in Memphis, TN. The lovely four-room, 280 sf house is the smallest house permitted in Shelby County, TN.

With offices located in Downtown Memphis, ArchInc’s principals offer over 85 years of combined experience with specialization in new construction, preservation, restoration and renovation of existing buildings, historic structures and National Park Service (National Register) certified projects. ArchInc principals have worked to develop our multifamily housing, office, retail and restaurant markets as well as community engagement and neighborhood revitalization in and around Downtown Memphis for over 50 years.

As an architect and urban designer, Chooch’s career in Memphis spans over 20 years in the private, non-profit and quasi-governmental sectors. His roles at the center of major developments and progress in Downtown and Midtown Memphis range from collaborating on the master plan for Main Street, selecting the site of the first Downtown Memphis Elementary School, staffing the CCC Design Review Board, acting as liaison to the Memphis Landmarks Commission, tracking/mapping all development and properties in Downtown Memphis, renovating multiple historic structures in and adjacent to the South Main Historic District, serving as the Executive Architect of the $40+M renovation/restoration of Court Square Center, authoring the Midtown Overlay, serving as the Executive Architect and Urban Designer for the French Fort Redevelopment Plan, and providing preservation consulting on numerous historic renovations.

Through two decades of work with the Tennessee Historical Commission and the National Park Service, Chooch’s expertise with Historic Tax Credits and the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation is a considerable asset for clients with preservation and restoration needs. He has earned preservation awards from the Tennessee Historical Commission, AIA Tennessee, Memphis Heritage, the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Tennessee. His diverse career path including architecture, preservation, urban design, development, community engagement/facilitation and understanding of core city development gives him the ability to bring creative ideas, innovation and problem-solving skills to the team.

Homes for Hearts has partnered with Chooch Pickard and Architecture Inc. to help with master site planning, and permitting. Chooch recently began development of a master site plan for 6 acres that Homes for Hearts recently acquired in Memphis, TN.

President of Binghampton Community Land Trust (BCLT), Joni Laney’s connection to the Binghampton neighborhood began in 1997 when as pastor of what was then Everett Memorial Church, after she was asked to start an after-school program for neighborhood kids. Joni began by going door-to-door to invite children to the program and was astounded, even back then, by the diversity of the neighborhood and the hospitality of everyone she met. Joni told her husband, Billy, that this neighborhood was unique in Memphis. Joni and Billy moved to Binghampton in 2002 after conversations with their four children. They immediately loved the life and vitality – soccer games in the park, conversations on the street, constant activity of youth up and down the block. Joni and family were involved in Caritas Community and later Caritas Village. The Laney Vaughans have hosted vigils and marches and Good Friday pilgrimages; canvassed door-to-door numerous times; had drumming circles and cook-outs and music on the yard next to Caritas House. The gardens, REP, CTC, MIA, the various churches who worship in the Commons have all added activity and flavor to what is an amazing space in this city.

Joni cares about preserving the life and vitality and diversity of the Binghampton neighborhood. To her that means not allowing developers to gentrify all the housing, insuring that families to want to buy homes are able to, making sure that vacant and derelict properties are rehabbed responsibly, maintaining what has become cultural, racial, economic diversity in a city where that is hard to find.

Created in 2018, BCLT was formed in response to the consensus of Binghampton community residents that the crucial need for affordable housing in the neighborhood was not being met. The Binghampton Community Land Trust (BCLT) is a community-based non-profit corporation committed to the revitalization and empowerment of the Binghampton neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee. 

BCLT’s mission is to:

(1) create a pool of affordably priced owner-occupied homes in the Binghampton neighborhood for low to moderate income families

(2) utilize the community land trust strategy to keep these homes affordable forever; and

(3) prevent the unwanted market-driven displacement of limited-income families from this neighborhood.

 

Homes for Hearts has partnered with Joni Laney and Binghampton Community Land Trust to make sure the land we build on remains affordable and in the community’s hands for years to come.

All land that Homes for Hearts acquires within Binghampton will be donated to BCLT, in which a Homes for Hearts Resident will own their home and BCLT will own the land.

All homes built outside of Binghmapton will have a restricted deed to prevent investors from getting ahold of our housing and within the community’s hands for years to come. When a Homes for Hearts Homebuyer wishes to resell their home, they must give Homes for Hearts first option to buy it back at a fair market value that will also allow a new resident to move in and spend no more than 20-30% of the average median area income toward housing.

Homes for Hearts has partnered with Room In the Inn to help with the vetting process and case management of each Homes for Hearts resident

In 2021, RITI Memphis opened the Mid-South’s first Recuperative Care Center for people experiencing homelessness, a 21 bed unit offering recovery services for those who are released from hospitals throughout Shelby County. Families find shelter and support at RITI’s Family Inn, while staff serve as advocates with them along the journey toward sustainable housing.

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