Lourdes is the CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority, the largest housing authority in the state of Texas. One would think that would be a daunting task in and of itself. But working there is about more than just providing shelter; it’s about giving access to education.
"It’s not just about brick and mortar, but brick and mortar is very important. If you have a place to sleep, a safe place to sleep, a place to call your home, even if you’re a renter, I think that’s fundamental and important in your ability to improve your life.
I see housing as a basic necessity that every individual and family needs.
But beyond that, our housing authority is also focused on providing the types of opportunities that families are seeking.
You know, a family may have fallen in to a difficult time; they may have gone through a divorce, or a single mother who’s striving to improve her life and provide her son a better future. And so the housing authority recognizes that it’s important to provide the connections and the links to the education and job training and support services that are necessary to have families improve their life.
Meet The Green Team
Meet The Green Team
At the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) in Cleveland, Ohio, you’ll find the largest community garden in the country. Gardens at the nine CMHA developments throughout Cuyahoga County provide fresh produce and give the residents the opportunity to work and take care of their communities. The community gardens are open to any resident interested in learning about and growing organic food.
In addition, five "Green Teams," teach urban farming and healthy living skills to CHMA residents. Residents volunteer at their own convenience and harvest for themselves and their community. Weekly lessons are offered to individuals and families taught by knowledgeable garden specialists. The "Green Team" recruits public housing residents to participate in gardening through training, education, and hands-on activities. The residents gain the skills and structure required to plant, cultivate, and harvest organic, sustainable fruits and vegetables in urban farms in their own neighborhoods.
Residents have shared that the main benefits they enjoy the most are becoming healthier individuals, saving money on food, and socializing and spending time outside in their neighborhoods and communities. Because of the success of this program, CMHA plans to add more than 3,000 square feet of new growing space for the Community Gardens and "Green Teams."
For Melissa, a single mother, public housing has given her and her family a home, with the warmth and support of an entire community.
"It's closer than every other place. Most all of us know everyone. We watch each other's children. We get together for cookouts – one neighbor will bring the hot dogs, one neighbor will bring the hamburgers. We have a grill master. It's a tight community. It's not single family homes where you don't know your neighbor, or you've never seen your neighbor across the street. Everyone pretty much knows everyone and we like it that way.
This community makes my family feel at home. It gives them a place to sleep, a place to play, a place to eat, a place to bathe. They have a yard to play in. They have a clothesline to hang clothes on, a place to catch the bus to go to school. Friends, gardening. It’s more than we could dream of."
Reggie was born the eighth child of fifteen to his parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, he experienced a lot of violence at a young age. After graduating high school, he served in the Vietnam War, and upon his return to the US, Reggie went back to school and worked as a maintenance mechanic. For 20 years, he lived in Oakland, California, before moving back to New Orleans.
As is common throughout the southeast, Reggie's family and friends would often hold hurricane parties. They never considered evacuation for any storm because they always just cleaned up afterwards. However, in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, the rain and winds were so strong that a tree went through his house. Water began rising up to the car windows, electricity was out, and Reggie and his family realized they had to evacuate. As they walked through the flooded streets to get to the Crescent City Connection, a bridge crossing the Mississippi River, they knew they were in trouble. Unable to pass over the bridge, they became stranded for three days without necessities until the National Guard arrived. From this experience, Reggie learned what survival truly meant.
Reggie's family went to Houston, Texas where they finally could bathe, put on clean clothes, get a warm meal, and a good night rest. While there, they began hearing themselves called refugees and references made that they were probably 'better off now' than when they lived in New Orleans. Reggie said, "All I wanted to do was get back to my home. But when I did return home, I found total devastation. There was nothing left. No pictures, no furniture, not even grass in my front lawn."
Reggie traveled to California, and found refuge in a homeless shelter in Sacramento. One day, after receiving encouragement from someone he had just met; Reggie applied for low income public housing. As a disabled veteran who was now homeless as a result of Hurricane Katrina, he was able to qualify for an apartment in Woodland, which is part of Yolo County Housing. Thanks to the help of those in his community, Yolo County Housing, the Veteran's Administration, and One Stop Employment Center, he has made Woodland his home.
Today, Reggie has become an active participant in his community and was instrumental in the launching of the Community Awareness and Support Team (CAST) at two communities within Yolo County Housing. "Mr. Reggie," as he is known, is always there to help his neighbors, and he even returned to school last year at the local community college, "You are never too old to learn new things." Reggie says, "I have never given a thought of leaving Woodland, now, or anytime in the future."
Betty Jernigan is a native of Bell County, Texas. As a child, her family moved from Belton to various other communities in North and Central Texas before finally settling down in Temple in 1961. She was the only child and vividly remembers the love and devotion from her parents who were married for 14 years before she was born. She was truly a blessing for the two of them. Family trips, especially to the San Antonio Zoo, were eagerly anticipated each summer.
Betty is a 1967 graduate of Temple High School. Some of her fondest memories are from involvement with the Drama Club where she worked with make-up for the presentations. She also loved to dance.
Betty was employed with The Inn at Scott & White for 13 years before becoming disabled. As a disabled person, she became zealous about maintaining self sufficiency and helping others. She is an active volunteer with several groups including the Texas Association of Single Adults and has devoted several years of service to the residents of Golden Haven Apartments. She has served as President and Vice President of the Resident Association and has volunteered with the Hill Country Community Action Agency meals program. She currently serves the congregate meals Monday through Friday and delivers those same meals door to door in the building for residents participating in the Meals on Wheels nutrition program.
Betty has one daughter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild with another great-grandchild on the way. Betty is passionate about treating people with respect and dignity and believes that these are crucial to building and sustaining an environment in which everyone feels included, valued, and appreciated.