Breaking News
More () »

Memphis organization buys back South Memphis block for single mothers in need

“We’re trying to bring a community together to turn dope houses into hope houses,” said Jessica Owen, Flanders Field and We Fight Monsters Co-Founder.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many in Memphis struggle with addiction. From January to March, the Shelby County Health Department has seen 380 opioid-related Emergency Department visits and 538 suspected drug overdoses. 

With the problem growing, one organization is fighting to get people off the streets.

In March, we first told you about an organization called Flanders Field and their “Operation Buy Back the Block” initiative. Initially, they would buy vacant homes, fix them, and let veterans struggling with addiction live for free, but within the past two months, their cause has gotten bigger and more impactful.

On Melrose Street in South Memphis, it is nothing but love. 

“Everybody’s family. We watch out for one another,” said Big Red, a neighbor.

Family picks each other up when someone falls. 

“I remember sitting over there getting high. Now, it’s about to be something positive,” said Shakena Mason, another neighbor.

Mason has been sober for two years. She and a few others used to feed their habit in one particular home on the block. 

“This house, it was the dope house. This is where I came and spent all my money,” said Mason.

Back in March, we introduced you to Flanders Field and “Operation Buy Back the Block. Founders Ben and Jessica Owen buy abandoned homes, fix them up, and allow veterans in recovery to live for free. Since then, that goal and mission has expanded. 

“I’d say about 95% of people we’ve encountered who are ready for help and ready to do something different, they’re not vets. I’d be damned if I’m going to step over the dead body of someone just because they didn’t serve,” said Owen, Flanders Field and We Fight Monsters Co-Founder.

The Owens are fixing up homes for any single mother in need. It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran or not. Neighbors in the community are also helping. 

“We’re trying to bring a community together to turn dope houses into hope houses,” said Jessica Owen, Flanders Field and We Fight Monsters Co-Founder. 

“Everybody in South Memphis saw Jess and I when we were out there. I mean, out there, out there, very badly addicted. For them to see us like we are now, that carries a message and it’s not a weak one,” said Ben Owen.

It is a message that others in recovery are spreading too. 

“Not only is it helping me and allowing me to continue my walk, and grow in my recovery, but it’s a chance to be able to see what kind of difference we can make,” said Josh Snead who is recovering from addiction and a member of the Shelby County Drug Court.

“It’s a second chance. It’s a third chance. It’s a 43rd chance because some of us need that many,” said Jessica Owen.

“You don’t have to leap anymore. All you have to do is take that step,” said Snead.

It is a step that Mason has taken as her daughter closely watches her continued progress.

“I wanted her to know where I came from, where I used to be. When they were with my mama and I was out here, they didn’t know where I was at and I wanted her to see what we’re doing,” said Mason. “It feels good to wake up and just be high off air. It feels good, feels great.”

Ben and Jessica Owen along with the Melrose Street community and volunteers are building a playground as well. In just a few weeks, they have been able to help get seven women off the streets. They are also calling on you, the public, to help in their cause in any way you can. To help, click here.

Before You Leave, Check This Out