If there was ever a force to be reckoned with at Taft Homes, Latacha Peary is it. A 16-year veteran of Taft Homes, Peary is a community-focused woman who has big ambitions—ambitions she fully intends to succeed in.
What is your name?
What are your ambitions in life?
My number one ambition in life is to rehab houses. I’ve wanted to do it since I was a little girl. One of my uncles is a construction worker, and one of my other uncles rehabs houses already. I grew up watching him do it, and it’s stuck with me.
I really want to rehab homes on the South end (of Peoria). I went there a few days ago—for the first time in years—and it just looked bad. The houses looked old and run down. It didn’t look like anybody cared. If one person could come in a rebuild a whole block, maybe other people will see that and come in and rebuild other areas. Then, maybe, some people who already live there would start seeing the shift and start taking pride in their homes and their yards. If I could do that anywhere, it’d be on the South end.
That’s an awesome goal to have. So, how do you plan on getting there?
I have put together a small portfolio, kind of like a business plan. The second step would be to look for investors who want to rebuild the South end. I wouldn’t want to go through a bank; I don’t want to fall into a hole. I think it’d be much easier [working with investors].
And, you could expose more people to parts of Peoria they might not be familiar with that way.
How long have you lived at Taft Homes?
I’ve been staying here since 1999, so almost 16 years. Wow, that’s a long time.
What do you like about living at Taft?
I just like the area. It’s close to downtown, and right on the river front. I love the trails, and that the marina is close by. There are restaurants very close, too. It’s just the perfect location.
What made you want to join the resident council?
There are so many things I’ve seen down here that need changing. Right now, no one is standing up and trying to make change happen. How long is going to take before someone stands up and tries to make a difference? I was asked by [PHA CEO] Brenda [Coates] to do this, and it sounded like a great way to better our community.
What is your role in the Taft Resident Council?
I’m the President.
Tell me about some of the initiatives you’ve started since becoming president.
When I first started [in February 2015], the first thing I did was figure out what the residents wanted and to hear what they had to say. Before I was elected, I went door-to-door to see what their concerns were, and what they would want changed at Taft.
I’ve started the process of getting a Taft-only food panty started up here. Right now, the application is in and we’re waiting. I’ve started a neighborhood association and a neighborhood watch. I’m working with [PHA Security Officer] Jerry McKean to fix the security cameras and to get more patrols at Taft. Once we get that situated, we’re going to start planning an event for the Fourth of July.
What would you like to see more of at Taft?
I’d like to see more beautification projects. We can always do stuff to make the Taft look better, and we should. I also want to see more participation from residents. I’ve started a help desk, but no one has really shown up to it. The residents know I’m here, but no one has come to me for help. I also want to see the room downstairs [a former childcare center] being used.
One thing I’m really excited about is starting up a basketball team for the kids and teens, maybe even adults, too. We’re gonna start small and see where it goes. I know the girls down here want to have step teams or a dance group. I’m going to start working on these things once the weather gets better. This is our home, so I really just want to see people at Taft coming together as a community.
Is there anything else you would like me to know?
Taft Homes in itself is a nice place to live. There are certain people [in Peoria who] have the wrong perception of how people live and act down here. That’s not a reflection of everyone. Really, they shouldn’t stereotype. You can’t judge a whole group of people just because of where they live.
Latacha is a shining star at Taft Homes, and we at the PHA are lucky to have a strong leader like her as one of our residents.