Coordinator for Housing Authority works to help families achieve self-sufficiency
Gwen Campbell, a licensed social worker, is the resident services coordinator for The Housing Authority of Danville. One day she may be tethered to her phone and computer scheduling facilitators for classes for residents at Batewood Homes. The next day, Campbell could be helping a single mom find child care so that she can go to work.
Another day Campbell is inflating balloons for senior residents at Arnold Tower to play a game of balloon volleyball, then back at her office, she starts searching online for manufacturer coupons to help a resident pay for their prescription medications.
“I really like working with all of the different people that I get to meet. There are so many interesting residents,” she said. She also coordinates all of the Housing Authority’s resident services programs.
“What we strive to be at the Housing Authority, is we’re really trying to be more than just housing,” Campbell said. “What we want to do is provide opportunities for our residents to become self-sufficient, less reliant on government services.”
Part of her job is to “provide opportunities for them to make self improvements,” Campbell said. “That is our mission.”
Campbell began her position here last March, in an office at Arnold Tower — a public housing residence for senior citizens.
Recently, the Housing Authority renovated a building at the end of Toombs Court which will be the community center for Batewood Homes when it officially opens on Jan. 24. Campbell’s office has been relocated there.
Inside the brick building, which resembles a small chapel, Campbell looks around a room where several large tables are set up and says that’s where classes will be held for residents. Classes she’s scheduling will include employability classes, basic life skills, budgeting, and even a parent support group, will meet at the community center.
“I coordinate all of the different agencies to come in here,” in order to help residents with referral needs.
In the next room, there are six computers sitting on tables lined up against a wall near her desk, along with a fax machine and copier. This computer lab will be available to Batewood residents to use for job searching, resume writing and doing homework.
“We want anything that’s going to give the (residents) opportunities to make life improvements, whether it’s getting a job or furthering their education.”
Campbell said, “It’s a big job, but I love it.”
One of her duties of being the resident services coordinator includes being the family self sufficiency coordinator, too. “That program is geared toward people who specifically are wanting to decrease their reliance on government assistance. So they’re wanting to actually take the opportunity, when they are living in housing … to take advantage of these resources, where they can eventually move out of public housing into home ownership. I especially like working with those individuals,” Campbell said.
The family self sufficiency program requires participants to maintain employment and be free from government cash assistance within one year of graduating the program, Campbell said.
“It doesn’t affect their food stamps. If they want to remain in public housing, that’s fine. They just have to not get the cash money from the government and they have to be employed.”
One of her biggest challenges in helping those in the program to overcome barriers like transportation and child care, she said.
“We have a lot of people who want to work, who want to go to school. But they’ve got no vehicles. They’ve got no way to get there, so we have to work on that and arrange transportation. We do have a lot of resources in Boyle County, but it’s really hard sometimes to just help people get transportation to and from various places.”
She said the city is lucky to have public transportation from DanTran. “But when you’re living in poverty and you don’t have a dollar to scrap together, it’s hard to get on the public transportation and go.”
From inside her new office, Campbell said, “We really want residents to make this their own center, so they can come and volunteer.”
Soon, she wants to have a clothing donation closet in place. Residents will be able to volunteer at the center to help sort the clothing and work on commodity boxes when food donations come in.
“It’s really to enhance their overall well-being, so we really do want to be more than just housing,” Campbell said.
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