By Joseph D. Bryant
Housing Authority of the Birmingham District
Nearly three dozen families at Loveman Village are new participants in a five-year program designed to lead them to self-sufficiency with better jobs, higher education and even home ownership.
As the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District presses with plans to redevelop both Loveman Village and Southtown Court with modern homes and greenspace, the agency is just as focused on helping current residents improve their own conditions through the Family Self-Sufficiency and Section 3 Programs.
Section 3 directs employment, contracting and other economic opportunities for residents.
HABD representatives are spending their mornings at the Loveman Village Community Center to meet with residents and discuss the programs. The first week was an early success with 34 families agreeing to participate in FSS.
“Most of them are looking to transition out of public housing,” said Jerethia Blake, the FSS Public Housing Coordinator who organized the sign up sessions. “They want better. You can see hope in a lot of them, and it has lit a spark for some of them to go out there and want to do better, realizing there is more than Loveman Village.”
FSS graduates have found jobs, moved to better jobs and have gone from public housing and public assistance to gaining complete financial and housing independence. Participants include both public housing residents and Section 8 residents.
‘Up and Out’
HABD President/CEO Michael Lundy called the reinvigorated self-sufficiency plan and mix of programs part of his “Up and Out” program, where residents agreed to a five-year plan toward independence. He stressed that public housing should be a temporary remedy for most residents.
Lundy said the agency is enhancing its FSS and Section 3 programming with an added focus on workforce development at both Loveman and Southtown Court.
The Alabama Housing Finance Tax Authority has approved $17 million in credits to begin the nearly $80 million redevelopment of the 61-year-old Loveman Village in Birmingham’s Titusville neighborhood
In addition, HABD is seeking developer proposals for a mixed-income revitalization of the current 455-unit Southtown Court.
“Brick and mortar improvements are instant signs of progress in a community,” Lundy said. “But what is equally or even more important are the advancements taking place within those walls as families are guided to a path of job advancement and opportunity. Financially and socially stable families are just as essential to healthy communities as attractive new developments.”
There are currently about 165 public housing and Section 8 families in the FSS program.
Lundy called Up and Out an HABD priority. He expects the number of signups to increase with the new push.
While all qualified residents have a right to public housing, the exact location and style of that housing is at the discretion of the housing authority. Preference for the newest and most desired housing will be given to residents who volunteer for Up and Out.
HABD Section 3 Program Coordinator, Jacqueline French, joins Blake at Loveman Village each morning.
“I want to educate the residents on the benefits of the Section 3 program and to get them dreaming again about different career goals through job training and workforce development,” French said. “Section 3 has the ability to get people dreaming again. It all starts with basic employment and making a better life for themselves and their children.”
French stressed that all public housing residents qualify for Section 3 services. It’s her mission to make sure each family knows the resources that are available to them.
French recalled meeting a 29-year-old Loveman Village resident who just completed training to become a medical assistant. The woman was among the 34 who signed up for Self-Sufficiency services.
“She just joined FSS, and we are here to assist her with job placement,” French said. “We will help her with her resume and in finding the right places to apply for a job.”
The current interest sessions are the result of a larger town hall meeting at Loveman Village where Lundy spoke to residents about the future of their neighborhood and options through FSS and Up and Out.
“Mr. Lundy did a good job of introducing this to them, so a lot of those families were curious,” Blake said. “Those who attended the town hall meeting received personal invitations to attend first.”
Blake next week will begin one-on-one meetings with the new FSS families to help them form their five-year action plans.