Back to where it begin: Harriett Waddell is back home at Mantua Apartments

February 23, 2017

Lifelong West Philadelphia resident Harriett Waddell thought she’d never return to the area after leaving for Delaware. But Mantua Apartments brought her back home.

Harriett Waddell told herself she wouldn’t come back to “The Bottom,” as locals call it.

“The Bottom” is what natives affectionately call the Mantua section of West Philadelphia because of the homely, tight-knit neighborhood’s close proximity to perceived ritzier Center City and the bustling, more transient University City, which is filled with Penn and Drexel students.

“I had said I wouldn’t come back down this way,” said Harriet, who raised her children in “The Bottom” before moving to Delaware in 2005. “I said I wouldn’t end up coming back. I just wanted a change from where we lived – we lived in a project area.”

Six years later, Harriett, despite what she told herself, found herself once again living in “The Bottom.”

And she couldn’t be happier about it.

Harriett, who called 38th and Reno Streets home for many years, came back to her neighborhood in 2011 when she moved into Mantua Apartments.

Opened in 2008, Mantua Apartments is a Presby’s Inspired Life-sponsored community that offers 65 units of HUD-PRAC Affordable Housing.

“The area seemed to be a little more different nowadays. They’re building up now more so down here,” Harriett said. “When this apartment was available in this apartment building, I ended up putting in an application. … And now that’s where I am, back here.”

Harriett says the main thing that sold her on Mantua Apartments was the close-knit feelings and relationships with the team members and other residents.
She says they all come together as one to form a family within the community.

“It’s more like a family and we have a family relationship with everyone here and that’s the thing I like,” Harriett said. “I like it because we have a sitting area outside. We have a beautiful site where we can look over the view of downtown and the view over the city.”

In her time at Mantua Apartments, Harriett has willingly taken on a leadership role among the residents.

Harriett, who is a pastor at True Love Church in Folcroft, Delaware County and has been a pastor since 1997, holds Bible study sessions for Mantua residents.

“I love the Bible study we have here. That door is always open here,” Harriett said. “I like that. I like people. I like to encourage and I like to tell people they can make it. People get in here and they think this or they think that. I just want to help.”

Harriett was also heavily involved in the Mantua Apartments resident council before it unfortunately disbanded.

While the council currently doesn’t exist and Harriett hopes to garner more interest in reviving it, she still does her best, in partnership with the management team, to put together programs for the residents to enjoy, including a yearly flea market that takes up the entire city block right outside the apartment building.

“I go through my closets and start throwing in anything I can find!” Harriett said of the flea markets. “We have nice stuff. We have a lot of vendors that will come in. People have clothes, people have shoes, people do cakes and they have food.

“Once a year, we set up tables all along the block in the summer. It’s more of a summer thing.”

But all throughout the time she spoke, Harriett continually used the word “family.” It was a theme she continually came back to.
And the reason for that is simple: it’s the thing she’s most proud of at Mantua Apartments.

“I like just meeting people,” Harriett said. “Even when I get down, someone is there to knock on the door and come spend time with me. It’s such a great thing.

“It’s family here. I tell anybody who asks about Mantua that it’s a family place.”

Mantua Apartments is a Presby’s Inspired Life-sponsored community that offers 65 units of HUD-PRAC Affordable Housing in West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood.

For more on Mantua, click here.

For more on Presby’s Affordable Housing Communities, click here.