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For the past few years, Greg Bullock’s Sharswood rowhome has been more than just a house.

It has functioned as a neighborhood meeting place, a community hub, a makeshift daycare. Most importantly for Bullock, it has been the lasting symbol of his son’s legacy

But now, if he can’t stop his landlord from moving forward, he might lose it entirely.

One spring day in 2014, Bullock walked out the front door of the corner house on 26th and Master streets to find his son collapsed in a pool of his own blood. Devin — then a 17-year-old high school basketball star — had been involved in a fatal, accidental shooting right on the same block where his father had lived on and off for nearly 50 years.

Four years after Devin’s death, Bullock is fighting to keep that home.

In October 2017, Bullock was told his landlord’s health had worsened, so the building needed to be sold. Bullock was given 30 days to come up with the money to buy the place, he said, or else the landlord would put it on the market. He was offered a discounted rate: $150,000 instead of the $200,000 market value.

Bullock took on the challenge of raising the money — but so far, it has appeared unsurmountable.

A memorial flyer for Devin hangs in the front door of the house Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

A community hub

He especially doesn’t want to lose the building because he’s turned it into a hub for neighborhood kids, he said.

After his son’s death, Bullock opened his home to various community programs. He began arranging youth activities in an effort to prevent Sharswood children from being involved in incidents like the one that killed Devin.

There’s jump rope, track and basketball at the playground across the street. There’s the water ice truck he bought — now stationed in his living room for the winter — to sell discounted treats. And whenever a neighbor is on the hook for last-minute childcare, Bullock is ready to host.

There are CPR-training courses, run out of the house by friend Crystal Lowery, of Abington, Pa. She called the building “a safe haven” for local children, and stressed how much help Bullock means to the Sharswood community.

“It’s a community that has a lot of children in need,” Lowery said, “and he’s able to help out some of those kids.”

But buying the home has proved challenging.

Searching for credit

After a lifetime relying on mostly cash transactions, Bullock doesn’t have the credit to get a mortgage, he said.

He’s spent the past four months exploring other options, including:

  • Consulting his daughter, Crystal, who owns a laundromat in Fairmount. She only had $1,500 to offer her father, and she was also denied a loan.
  • Turning to his local neighborhood association, the Greater Brewerytown CDC. He hoped he might be able to get a grant to cover the cost. But though the staff tried to help him, Bullock said, ultimately the grant didn’t go through.
  • Contacting District 5 Councilperson Darrell Clarke. A representative from Clarke’s office tried to connect him to an investor, Bullock said, who might be able to front the money for the house.

So far, none of these options have come through.

Bullock said he’s being treated for his high blood pressure because of stress Credit: Courtesy of Greg Bullock

Getting desperate

In the meantime, the landlord has been patient — he’s allowed several additional 30-day extensions to come up with the money — but is nearing the end of his rope.

“I’m not getting any younger,” said the landlord, per Bullock, “and I’m going to have to start showing the property.”

The first potential buyer was brought through last week. Now, Bullock is desperate.

He contacted a representative from Federal Credit Union, he said, who told him if he could come up with at least $4,000, the bank might be able to give him a loan for the rest of the down payment. He’s also considering setting up a crowd-funding website, but said he doesn’t really know how.

After several years of giving back to the community, Bullock is now asking for help.

“With everything that happened with my son on this corner, it just means so much to me,” Bullock said.

“It’s just not the cash value,” he added. “It’s for Devin.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...