A meeting is being planned for Jan. 11 at Falling Creek Gym for residents of public housing and Section 8 rentals to establish an advisory panel which would work with agency administration on policy and issues in the housing authority.
RHA Executive Director Angela McGill said that larger housing authorities typically have resident councils.
“Basically, the concept of the resident advisory board is the same as the council, but because this is a smaller housing authority each development will have a representative,” McGill explained. “The administration and the advisory board work together, in partnership, to address issues and concerns in the community.”
She said there are four separate public housing developments which belong to the RHA, and the addition of a Section 8 representative makes five that will serve on the panel.
The Jan. 11 meeting will be an informational one, when McGill will meet and greet residents and an independent monitor.
National Alliance of Resident Services in Affordable and Assisted Housing President Dr. Samuel Little will serve as the independent monitor. He happens to be a native of Rockingham who moved away during childhood. He will be traveling as a volunteer from the organization’s base in Maryland, and has offered his services on an as needed basis in the future, free of charge.
“Basically, these resident advisory boards are independent organizations which (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) requires housing authorities to have so the constituents who receive the services of the housing authority will have a voice in the setting of the policies that govern it,” Little explained.
In addition to helping public housing agencies set up the panels, Little said his group provides technical assistance to housing authorities on issues of compliance and offer assistance in seeking grant funding from governmental agencies as well as private foundations.
He said the formation of the panel will help towards those grant opportunities.
“Some funding sources will only fund resident-approved programs, and in the absence of a resident advisory board, many of those sources feel that a housing authority isn’t a good place to invest their resources,” Little said.
To illustrate his point, he used the example of the National Center for Health in Public Housing. Its Public Housing Primary Care Program awards funding to 55 community health centers in 24 states.
“This program requires you to have this type of body before you can be awarded funding through them,” he said. “And that is just one example, there are countless other funding sources out there. Once they demonstrate they are an established body, these organizations will be more than ready to help them.”
Residents will be allowed a 30-day period to declare interest in representing their community on this board, campaign for the position and conduct a election.
After the election, Little said his organization will work with those who are elected to train them in their responsibilities as a board member.
“These residents need to understand they have to take a serious position around being involved in their housing authority,” he said. “It’s an opportunity they want to have, and it’s an opportunity to be a spokesperson for their fellow residents.”
In previous meetings of the RHA Board of Directors, the possibility of adding a resident to the board, either as a voting or ex-officio member, had been discussed.
Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin said the establishment of a resident advisory board could work toward the same goal as this proposal, which he previously endorsed during an open session of the Rockingham City Council.
“I think is an excellent idea, and I look forward to having a conversation with Ms. McGill and RHA board members about the possibility of having this advisory board somehow serve the same mutual purpose we have,” McLaurin said. “Ultimately, we want to have better communication between public housing residents, housing authority administration and city government.”
McGill said this effort is part of a larger focus of hers, to ensure the agency is in full compliance with HUD regulations across the board.
“I want to communicate to the residents that I want to restore the image of the agency, and ensure that it’s in a position to provide quality service,” McGill said. “Right now, we really need to spark the interest of the community, particularly the residents, so that we can have as many of them participate as possible.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.