Business owner, housing advocate Flora Brewer dies at 66

dfwnewsa | December 4, 2023 | 1 | Dallas News , Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Business owner, housing advocate Flora Brewer dies at 66
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Business owner, philanthropist and advocate for the homeless, Flora Brewer, leans on a pillar at the Palm Tree Apartments. She died Nov. 27, at the age 66, following a two-year battle with metastatic bile duct cancer. (Courtesy photo)

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Where others saw vacant lots and abandoned buildings, Flora Brewer saw opportunity.

“Properties, neighborhoods and entire lives in Fort Worth have been transformed by the work of Dr. Flora Brewer. Flora laid the foundation for the ways that our city is tackling issues around homelessness and housing, and her dedication to working together to build sustainable solutions will have a lasting impact on this city,” Mayor Mattie Parker said in a statement.

Brewer, one of Fort Worth’s foremost champions of affordable and permanent supportive housing, died Nov. 27 in Fort Worth at the age of 66.

The philanthropist, business owner and ardent advocate for the homeless, battled metastatic bile duct cancer for two years, according to an obituary posted by Restland Funeral Home. 

Council member Chris Nettles of District 8, also offered his condolences.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our beloved friend, and Fort Worthian Flora Brewer — her vivid advocacy to lessen homelessness in Fort Worth will forever be commemorated. She was a true advocate and champion for affordable housing. Her work and legacy are remembered through her efforts to make Fort Worth a better place and a better community for all.”

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Brewer was someone who lived out her values, said Ann Zadeh, former City Council member and executive director of Community Design Fort Worth.

She “carried forward her convictions of not just saying, this is a problem in our community,” Zadeh said. “But how do we go about remedying that problem and not just dealing with the symptoms of it, but kind of getting at its root and providing housing for folks?”

In some shape or form, Brewer championed multiple redevelopment projects, but her 2015 purchase of a 24-unit apartment building on Race Street was a catalyst in addressing homelessness in Fort Worth. The Palm Tree Apartments not only housed people and reduced homelessness in its immediate neighborhood, but it also provided services for them on the same site.

For Tara Perez, manager of the city’s Directions Home program, Palm Tree served as an “invaluable” proof of concept for other permanent supportive housing projects in Fort Worth. 

“She was really the pioneer in bringing that to Fort Worth,” Perez said.

“She was very well-versed in all the homelessness research. She later went on to get her Ph.D., and so she had a very strong academic background on what interventions worked well and what didn’t. And she also had the utmost respect for the local community.”

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New Leaf at Quail Trail, another permanent supportive housing project, benefitted from Brewer’s leadership, advice and financial contributions and fundraising, Perez added.

Likewise, president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions Mary-Margaret Lemons called Brewer an inspiration. 

“Her tireless dedication to improving the quality of life for the homeless population in Fort Worth served as an inspiration for us all,” she said in a statement. “She was a trusted ally and committed partner for those working to make a difference in our city, and especially at Fort Worth Housing Solutions. While Flora’s counsel and generosity will be missed, her contributions and spirit will live on in the lives she touched.”

Brewer served on the mayor’s advisory commission on homelessness from 2006-2008.

Beyond housing, Brewer was also a singer and champion of the arts.

“I think the most common thing that people commented on, you know, other than her just being incredibly generous and kind and all, was just how beautiful her voice was,” her son, Evan Mead-Brewer, said.

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She created affordable studio space when she redeveloped Lancaster Lofts in 2005, championed arts education for elementary students in public schools and shared her love of music with her family, having met her husband when she was working as a music coordinator at a summer camp for young adults and children with disabilities.

“Mom was a landlord. But you know, there were times where she would accept art in lieu of rent,” her son said. “Our house is just full of (work from) local artists that mom has supported for decades.

Likewise, those who met her found it hard to let go.

“She was just the sweetest,” local painter Carol Ivey said through tears.

Brewer is survived by her mother, Angela (Skentzos) Paulos;  her husband, Michael Brewer; her sons, Evan Mead-Brewer and Matthew Brewer; and brothers, John and Sam Paulos.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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