The Griffin Housing Authority and Educational Prosperity Initiative held its first of what will be an annual Resident Services Honors Ceremony last week celebrate the success of residents and to thank the service agencies that helped achieve this.
Housing Authority CEO Bob Dull said “most people have a stereotypical view of public housing and its residents. Tonight we’re here to recognize them; we’re tooting our own horn.”
The programs included the Zero Robotics team, a STEM middle school program held in collaboration with the University of Georgia Griffin Campus summer
camp program; Life Song Ministry job skills program; Taking Charge, which helps single parents who want to achieve self-sufficiency and take charge of their lives; Family Self Sufficiency, a Housing and Urban Development program; and Educational Prosperity Initiative, which promotes literacy and a system of general support in the neighborhood.
Anisa Freeman, the in-house program coordinator for this and other programs within the Housing Authority, explained the Zero Robotics team learns computer programming, robotics in a learning sphere and competes against students across the state. This year, the team — the BullDawg Bots — earned second place in the state competition.
The participating students — who were each recognized with a certificate — include Jhaylynne Burden, Uhmard Daniels, Devin Driver, Toriyah Gotell, Markirra Grier, Aziz Jackson, Da’Jannah Jackson, Logan Kiefer, Jalen Lindsey, Amalya O’Neal, Cyprus O’Neal, Kaili Parker, Georgia Pasley, Grayce Pasley, Braden Storkel and CyNya Sullivan.
Felicia Ashe, the Family Self Sufficiency coordinator for the Housing Authority, explained the HUD-funded program is designed to help families become self-sufficient, with classes and training and a requirement to obtain employment. “It is a five-year commitment,” Ashe said, help them break the cycle of poverty and gain more suitable employment.
As their income increase, she explained, they have to pay more in rent. The Griffin Housing Authority puts that money — the difference between their starting rent and the increased income rent — into an escrow account for the participants, and when they graduate, they get a check for that money.
Six graduates were presented their checks. Two have recently become homeowners through the Housing Authority and Community Home Investment Program (CHIP), with a third recently approved. All six have been able, through the program, to become self-sufficient and transition out of public housing.
In a video shown at the ceremony, each woman spoke about the FSS program and how they were able to set goals to improve their lives, able to become homeowners and how this program had been a blessing to them. Along with them on the video was the first GHA CHIP homeowner Kristy McDowell.
“It can be done, no matter what, no matter where you come from,” said one of the women, Artisia Hamm. “Your dreams can come true.”
Ashe said, “I am proud in helping them. A lot don’t know what it can be.”
Hamm was presented with a check for $2,756.37. She’d lived at Fairmont since 2007 and, like a couple of the others, started in the program in November 2011.
Chandra Varner was presented a check for $2,877.44. She said she’d been on her job for six years because of the program.
Kimya Dallas was presented with a check for $3,795.90, crediting the program for her obtaining suitable employment.
Crystal Webb was presented a check for $4,095.06. She moved into public housing back in April of 2014 and began in the program in 2015.
Stephanie Jordan, the second new homeowner under the GHA CHIP program, started in the program in 2016 and is a catering manager with Panera Bread. She was presented a check for $9,752.88.
Shamae Patterson, moved into Fairmont in 2011, while working as a paraprofessional at Anne Street Elementary School, and enrolled in the program later that same year. She worked on and completed her master’s of education degree and is now a full-time teacher with the Griffin-Spalding County School System. She was presented a check for $13,713,71.
“I was the better half of a relationship that ended because of drug addiction,” Patterson said, and after that separation, was no longer able to afford the apartment for her and her three children. She’s in her fourth year now of teaching and was just approved to be the next CHIP home owner.
Public housing, she said, “is just a stepping stone. The sky’s the limit to all that aim high.”
Dull said public housing is not the housing of last resort. ”
I want it to be the housing of opportunity,” he said. “I am tired of the stigma, the assumptions. I grew up in it and I didn’t turn out too bad.”
Dull said at age 15 he told his unmarried mother of four “she’d never see me in public housing again. Well, God has a sense of humor, now I manage it.”
The motto and creed of the Housing Authority “is to lift people out of bondage,” Dull said, thanking those who “help me be a good service provider and to find a better way.”
He presented certificates of appreciation to two women have have done that in the community. Jewell Walker-Harps with her efforts with Educational Prosperity Initiative, and Regina Abbott with the Spalding Collaborative.
The event also recognized many of the partners and supporters with EPI and GHA including Ann Imes & Associates Realtors, Chick-fil-A, City Church of Griffin, ECHO Inc., Fairmont Alumni Association, Griffin-Spalding County Schools Family & Community Engagement, Griffin-Spalding County Schools pre-K and Title III program, Grace Home Team, Griffin Daily News, Griffin Region College & Career Academy, Homestar Financial Corporation Fayetteville Branch, Ish Homes LLC, McIntosh Trail Behavioral Health Center, NAACP Griffin Chapter, New Mercy Baptist Church, PBS Realty Company, Southside Medical Center Hope Health Clinic, Small Treasures Learning Center, Spalding County Collaborative Authority, Spalding County Health Department, Spalding COunty Senior Center, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs, Salvation Army, UGA-Griffin Archway Program, UGA-Griffin Continuing Education Department, UGA-Griffin Spalding County Cooperative Extension, UGA-Griffin Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics Department, United Bank Griffin Branch, WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital Community Education and Outreach and WorkSource Three Rivers.