AmeriCorps VISTA Becky Peters discusses the superb work she is doing with Compass Affordable Housing.
“Compass Affordable Housing, Inc. (CAH) believes that all people, no matter their income, should have the opportunity to live in secure, decent, and affordable housing.”
Since starting my VISTA term, I have been able to experience firsthand how important housing can be for the success of an individual. The population of folks I work with on a daily basis typically have either a serious mental illness diagnosis, a physical disability, or are in recovery from substance use. It is unsettling to witness how common the cycle of homelessness, addiction and poverty has become—and how difficult it is to break this cycle. Although everyone in this complex holds specific identities that make them unique, they all have such similar stories that can bring them together.
My first month in this position was learning the ropes and acquainting myself with the tenants on the property. It became clear to me, that although these folks have a difficult past, they are some of the kindest souls you will ever interact with and they strive every day to improve their situation. I had to learn quickly that there are three crucial elements to me having success in this position: flexibility, patience, and intentionality. Even with a set schedule for the day, something/someone will present an emergency. In these situations, you have to be flexible, model patience and offer intentional support to each situation. Sometimes at the end of the day, I feel completely overwhelmed and lost as to if I had accomplished anything in the 8 hours I was in my office. But when I meet with a tenant, who is newly employed, who has reunited with their child, or who has received the news they have been accepted into a recovery coach training program—it solidifies for me that the work is being done.
For the next ten months I will be working on several projects that help to solidify the foundation of this organization and streamline processes to increase services for tenants connected to Compass Affordable Housing. Currently, this agency is small, but rapidly expanding. I will be helping to implement a database to better capture demographic data and needs from tenants, which can assist the organization to better evaluate programs, identify best practices and secure additional funding to support capacity. In addition, I am developing a project management tool that will assist the organization’s administration to develop policies and procedures that translate across all multi-family housing complexes owned by Compass Affordable Housing. A major element of this project is to increase efficiency and accessibility to resources utilized by staff, interns, and volunteers.
Regardless of the acronyms, forms, reports, and numbers—I have found that it is important to listen to the stories of the people I am serving. I am so excited to continue learning this year and build capacity within this organization—knowing it will be useful for many years to come.