COMMUNITY CENTERS-More Rights for Residents!

PHAR UPDATE: MORE RIGHTS FOR RESIDENTS!

Did you know PHAR has been working to improve residents’ access to community centers?  Yesterday a meeting was held between PHAR, the Legal Aid Justice Center and CRHA to negotiate.  Major progress resulted! 

Here are the “wins”:

  • Better access for residents!  Longer hours, less restrictions.
  • Centers will be available more hours: 8:00am to 9:30pm.
  • Residents will be able to reserve the centers for 6 -8 hours on weekends and holidays!  On weekdays the limit will still be 4 hours, but you will be able to get more if there are no other reservations in the 2 weeks before the event.  CRHA will try to be flexible if you have a situation that needs more than 4 hours.
  • Electronic key code system (“key FOB”) should be in place near the end of the year.
  • No cameras!  Video Cameras will not be installed in the community centers!
  • The requirement for residents to be in “good standing” was changed to help residents have better access.  You will be allowed to reserve for an event if you owe a balance of less than $50 for less than 30 days, and you can ask for flexibility.

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Thank you for supporting PHAR and helping to improve the quality of life in public housing neighborhoods!  Together we can make a difference!

Come to the October 27th CRHA Meeting at 7:00 pm at City Hall and let them know you support these great changes to the policy that will increase resident access and use of our community centers!

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Letter to City Council Regarding Review of CRHA

PHAR has submitted these written comments for Charlottesville City Council to consider as they discuss the City Manager’s review and recommendations of CRHA. Tonight (9/2) at 7:00 pm.
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Dear City Council and City Manager Jones,

PHAR offers these comments for your consideration when evaluating the proposals made by City Manager Maurice Jones regarding the management and operations of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and housing Authority.

In late 2012 and early 2013, PHAR frequented City Council meetings asking for assistance in improving the response from CRHA to resident concerns and seeking greater accountability to and oversight from the City Council on matters pertaining to the CRHA. The CRHA in turn, requested that the City Manager review operations and management to assist them in improving operations, management, and resident relations. This process has been long, and started with some big and creative thinking. Mr. Jones presented two big ideas- a city takeover, or a series of MOUs that would seek to improve the functions of the housing authority. He came to you with recommendations in December 2013 and explained how these two ideas might come to be. While it has been a challenge for PHAR and residents to fully grasp the implications of the two scenarios, we all knew that major steps towards providing accountability to residents needed to be taken.

We are somewhat disappointed in the current recommendations in that they do not seek to make any major changes to the CRHA as compared to Mr. Jones’ initial 2013 report. We support the proposals now being made, but respectfully ask for even greater steps be taken to improve CRHA accountability to residents and the City Council.

We understand that financial considerations have led to the watering down of Mr. Jones’ original proposals. Without political support and leadership from City Council we must assume that the CRHA will likely not see any further major improvements regarding resident concerns and quality of life in public housing. We ask that you approve the expenditure of funds for the three positions currently being recommended and to consider that since these require a mild amount of funding from the Affordable Housing Fund, that the City Council can and should have some measurement of positive successes regarding self sufficiency, maintenance, and redevelopment efforts that respect the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment and that pay attention to Charlottesville’s history regarding efforts towards redevelopment. The use of city funds may be the only way to hold the CRHA accountable to the city.

Unresponsive Housing Authority
To give some examples of long standing issues that have not been addressed by CRHA staff, despite city interaction, might be helpful in understanding the challenges faced. In late 2012 and early 2013 PHAR requested that CRHA negotiate a policy for improved use of the community centers, as allowed under HUD regulation 964 in 24 C.F.R. Since that time, and despite numerous requests from PHAR the CRHA has simply not committed to finalizing a policy. The latest request was completely ignored by CRHA Board and Staff and has put PHAR in the awkward position of filing an informal complaint with the Richmond field office. This issue has been a year and half in the making, and could have been finalized over a year ago.

Similarly, the CRHA passed a new trespassing policy in December 2012. At the time, all parties agreed that the current “barred list” needed to be revised and edited to meet the new standards, and remove names that were wrongly included on the list. This effort was to be completed in short order by both CRHA and the police. Coming up on two years now the list is still in disarray, to the point that the Charlottesville Police Department will not enforce the list due to inconsistencies. This has led to potential harm to the community and the presence of outsiders seeking to make trouble on housing authority property.

CRHA staff responsiveness to residents and to the CRHA board can be witnessed in full by reviewing the minutes for the last two meetings. Board packets were never issued, decisions made by the board were ignored regarding eviction policy draft changes, and negotiations over use of the community centers, both are long standing issues years in the queue. These issues,and many more, show some of the challenges faced by PHAR and the CRHA Board of Directors. The CRHA Board is now fully functioning, but as witnessed recently, even a functioning and capable board have challenges in holding the CRHA staff accountable.

Examples of Past City Involvement Failing to Provide Accountability
PHAR has a hard time picturing how the current recommendations will keep this behavior from continuing. Mr. Jones does propose better board training, but fails to offer an accountability piece, and assuming that City Council is not interested in providing financial support for board training there seems to be no mechanism for providing that layer of accountability. Mr. Jones does recommend frequent meetings with the City, CRHA, and PHAR to address key issues and resolve disputes. We welcome these frequent “internal team” meetings but must point out that PHAR tried to establish monthly meetings with Executive Director upon her coming to the CRHA and our efforts were rebuffed despite the encouragement of high ranking city officials. Other attempts at similar meetings have typically been called as a result of a crisis (such as PHAR opposing RAD and CRHA not giving adequate attention to residents in pursuing this major change to public housing). These recent meetings have failed to move things forward due mainly to a lack of commitment from CRHA towards working together. If we are to have team meetings, PHAR asks that these meetings provide concrete work plans for all parties and a way to hold all parties accountable to commitments made.

PHAR has trust in city staff and this is why we have consistently asked for greater involvement. We have witnessed, as have your staff, the inability or lack of desire from CRHA staff to work collaboratively with city staff and PHAR in the past. As redevelopment proceeds, we hope that the city will take all steps possible to ensure CRHA communication with the City and PHAR. A redevelopment coordinator could be one channel for ensuring this communication, but could become an exercise in futility if there is no accountability piece providing for resident engagement and CRHA collaboration. Using City funds towards this effort may be the only way to ensure accountability to a mutually agreed upon process, we ask that the City outline standards and measures to make sure this happens. PHAR respectfully asks that an MOU be drafted for the City, CRHA, and PHAR to codify a process that respects all parties’ involvement in decision making regarding redevelopment.

PHAR Supports Current Recommendations

PHAR supports the current recommendations, and would like to offer thoughts for your consideration.

Self-Sufficiency Specialist- PHAR also runs a self-sufficiency program through a ROSS grant from HUD. PHAR efforts have been hampered by lack of collaboration and coordination with CRHA staff despite requests for frequent contact and referrals. We assume that a City sponsored Self-Sufficiency program provides CRHA staff a way to further by-pass PHAR efforts in this matter. We ask that consideration be given to avoiding duplication of efforts, and towards collaboration with our ROSS program. We ask that serious consideration be given towards prevention coordination as that position has been eliminated by the CRHA. We also ask that City Council increase attention to providing more economic opportunities for all of Charlottesville’s low income people.

In concert with self-sufficiency efforts, we highly welcome the presence of the new Jobs Center on public housing sites, we are happy to collaborate on making this program work for all. New equipment, especially computers, may be needed on CRHA sites to ensure that this effort is meaningful.

Modernization/Maintenance Supervisor- we welcome this position to the CRHA, and have consistently asked for this position to be created. We ask that a measurement of improvements be provided to City Council to evaluate the effective expenditure of Council funds for this position.

Redevelopment Coordinator- it is unclear which body this position would be supervised by. We know that serious decisions about how to proceed with redevelopment will be made soon. We insist that the postion not be supervised directly by the CRHA as their efforts on redevelopment have excluded resident participation. We insist that regardless of which body the coordinator be supervised by that frequent reports be made by the coordinator to City Council. We also insist that a clear job description be established and that the coordinator has adequate knowledge of the history of Charlottesville’s public housing, past efforts towards redevelopment, current efforts towards redevelopment, and a clear understanding of PHAR and resident desires for collaboration towards positive and successful redevelopment of public housing. PHAR continues to insist that steps forward on redevelopment must begin with crafting a clear plan for relocation of residents during redevelopment.

Human Resources- we are happy to see the City provide much needed oversight of human resources for the CRHA. We ask that efforts towards Section 3 enforcement be redoubled and that outreach concerning Section 3 resume. We also ask for frequent reports to Council regarding Section 3 enforcement and meeting HUD mandated goals for resident employment. We are happy to see City provided training for CRHA staff and ask that immediate attention be given towards the training of current staff who have recently been subject to consolidation of duties. We ask that Human Resources coordinate with the newly established CRHA personnel committee.

Police Presence- PHAR advises that greater police presence be undertaken only with consent of the community and under clear guidelines established by residents. The bulk of comments we hear from residents are that police interactions with residents are negative. Lack of respect and assumption of guilt are consistent complaints PHAR hears from residents about police. While residents are concerned about safety in the neighborhoods, they are quick to point out that police interaction is seldom positive when they are around and that response on matters requiring immediate attention is slow. Simply stating that residents are asking for increased police presence is a misstatement of a much more nuanced concern that residents have. Further, we point to the barred list as being a critical issue that needs to be sorted out immediately. We ask for a meeting between the Chief of Police and PHAR before strategic planning is conducted by the police department. We request consistent meetings with police at resident services meetings and monthly reports to the CRHA Board as was the practice in the past.

Furthering City Involvement

We have a clear understanding that City Council will have limited opportunities to increase accountability from CRHA if funding is not attached to recommendations. CRHA thus far has proven that coordination with the city and actions on past recommendations have not occurred simply by request of PHAR or the City. With this in mind we ask for the City to continue to investigate ways to improve the CRHA’s functioning, to address the myriad needs of residents, and to provide appropriate funding to implement methods to improve the management and function of CRHA including revisiting a potential city takeover of CRHA or additional MOUs to improve management. We also ask that you consider the following:

-          Funding for the reestablishment of the Prevention Coordinator position to reduce lease violations and evictions.

-          Immediate investigation of CRHA hiring and dismissal practices including Section 3 implementation and potential equal opportunity violations that may result in litigation.

-          A signed MOU between the City of Charlottesville, PHAR, and CRHA that outlines specifics regarding process for redevelopment and that ensures “meaningful and enforceable resident participation will guide all substantial decisions about redevelopment”.

-          Joint work session between City Council and CRHA to address concerns and implement recommendations.

-          Frequent reports from CRHA Director to Charlottesville City Council highlighting progress made towards improving management of CRHA and efforts towards redevelopment.
Finally, PHAR hopes that City Council will approve Mr. Jones’ recommendations with the assumption that this is merely a first step towards making improvements to the housing authority. Much work is still to be done and we hope that the City of Charlottesville will monitor progress and continue to assist in improving CRHA’s management, functions, and future.

Respectfully and on Behalf of PHAR’s Board of Directors,

Brandon Collins, Organizer

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR Elections 2014!

Make Sure You Return Your Ballot for the 2014 Election to the PHAR Board of Directors!

Help make sure your choices join our board to set a course for a positive future for all residents!

Ballots were included in your August rent statement.
The deadline for returning your ballot is August 25, 2014

Mail or Hand Deliver to:

PHAR Elections 2014
c/o Brenda Casteneda
1000 Preston Ave
Charlottesville, Va 22903

If you need help submitting your ballot,
call PHAR at (434) 984-3255 and we will make sure
your ballot gets collected in a safe and secure way!
If you need a stamped and addressed envelope to return your ballot just let us know!

Cast Your Vote for a Positive Future! Your Voice Matters!

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PHAR Elections 2014- Nominations Now Being Accepted!

Please volunteer to run for election to PHAR’s Board of Directors

or nominate someone you know to run!

The Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) will be holding elections for its Board of Directors this summer.  The Board is composed of 10 elected members and 5 appointed members. Board members attend PHAR Board meetings once a month, bring concerns from their sites, turn out other residents to meetings and actions, and share information with residents at their sites.  We are now looking for volunteers to run for election to the PHAR Board!

Who can run for a seat on the Board?

All residents of Charlottesville public housing are members of PHAR.  Each member whose name appears on a CRHA lease and who is either the head of household (any age) OR at least 16 years of age shall have the right to vote for Board members, as well as to nominate someone to run for the Board and is also be eligible to be nominated to run for a seat on the PHAR Board.   Nominees for a seat on the Board must live in a public housing development.

What positions on the PHAR Board are open?

Elected representation among public housing sites is distributed as follows:

  • Large Housing sites [Crescent Hall, South First Street, Westhaven] elect 2 representatives each, and
  • Smaller Housing sites [Madison Avenue, Michie Drive, Sixth Street, Riverside/Scattered Sites] elect four representatives collectively. 

How to nominate someone to run for the PHAR Board, or volunteer yourself:

Any PHAR member may nominate themselves and/or any other eligible person for a seat on the PHAR Board of Directors by sending the name(s) and contact information (address, telephone numbers) of nominee(s) to:

PHAR, 1000 Preston Ave., Suite C, Charlottesville, Virginia, or

email brenda@justice4all.org, or fax (434)977-0558 or call 984-3255 (PHAR).

Nominations are due July 23rd

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May 6- Online Giving Day SUPPORT PHAR

Hello PHAR Freedom Fighters!

Wishing you could help PHAR further our mission to Empower Low Income Residents to Protect and Improve Our Own Communities Through Collective Action?

May 6th is your chance is to help us raise much needed funds to continue to meet our mission and meet the challenges residents of public housing will be facing this year!

During the 24 hours of May 6th, 2014, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation is hosting Give4Good – Greater Charlottesville.  On May 6th, every dollar you donate to PHAR will be stretched by up to $16,000 in matching funds and $16,000 in prize money.   Help us reach our goal of $25,000 by donating at: http://givegreatercville.org/#npo/charlottesville-public-housing-association-of-residents on May 6th!

Ways You Can Help
- Mark your calendar for May 6 to make your donation (see widget on the right!)

- Share http://givegreatercville.org/#npo/charlottesville-public-housing-association-of-residents with everyone you know via e-mail!

- share PHAR’s website or the Give4Good page on facebook

- like our facebook page- and share and post often! help us build the buzz!

- copy and paste this post and send as an e-mail- be sure to send a personal note telling all of your friends why supporting PHAR is important!

Thanks! Hope to be sending lots of thank you notes to all who donate!

Why Your Support is Needed
PHAR has consistently been a voice for residents of public housing and low-income people in our community. Through community organizing, our internship program, services coordination, and individual advocacy PHAR has improved the lives of thousands of residents by educating residents about their rights, giving resident input into decision making, supporting resident desires, addressing resident concerns, and standing up for low-income people in Charlottesville and nationwide.

PHAR relies on a small, hardworking, staff to bring about change in the community and public housing neighborhoods. PHAR relies on donors like you to help fund our organization as we stand up and speak out for a better life for all people. This year will see many changes to public housing and the re-starting of much needed redevelopment of public housing in Charlottesville. PHAR feels that residents should have a say in the future of their communities and redevlopment. Help PHAR to make sure that residents are at the table and that decision makers will abide by the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment by making your donation on May 6th!

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2014 PHAR Internship Program- We Want You!

Now recruiting for the

PHAR Internship Program!

Do you care about your community? Want to learn how to make a difference?

  • Develop your leadership skills, knowledge and involvement
  • Earn 11.00/hour stipend. (not included in rent calculation!)
  • Commit to work up to 10 hours a week.
  • Program lasts for 6 months, starting in about 2 weeks.
  • Public Housing and Section 8 Residents can apply

 Call PHAR at (434) 984-3255 to schedule an interview,

OR Intern Application 2014 and bring or mail to

PHAR’s office 1000 Preston Ave, Suite C 

HURRY, this opportunity won’t last long,

Bring/send your application by noon on Monday, April 28 please!

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Congratulations to PHAR Interns!

PHAR is proud and humbled to announce the successful completion of the PHAR Internship Program for 2013.
On February 11 the interns graduated from the program and received their certificates of completion, the event was well attended, and featured keynote speaker Holly Edwards, former vice-mayor of the City of Charlottesville.

PHAR is grateful and proud for all of the hard work and successes of our interns!

Congratulations to:
Sabrina Allen
Mary Faulkner
Christine Hester
Jamika Moore

2014 intern graduation w HollyThese 4 women brought energy, motivation, and critical thinking skills to to PHAR. Their successes were many and have an effect on their personal lives, the loves of public housing residents in Charlottesville, and have made a huge contribution to justice in public housing nationwide for their organizing work on RAD.

Among their many accomplishments were:
Job training and employment readiness- all four gaining employment at some point in the program

Meeting their personal goals and resolving issues
with the CRHA, work, and the schools

Applying for and being appointed
to the CRHA Board of Commissioners (congratulations Commissioner Allen!)

Drafting and advocating
for an expanded eviction prevention policy

Documenting Mold
and air quality issues in public housing

And finally- taking a stand against RAD
, the HUD program being considered by CRHA. PHAR could not have made the gains it did without the strong minds and able bodies of our 4 interns. Interns were critical in organizing residents to attend meetings, educating residents, educating residents and advocates nationwide, setting up trainings, speaking out and speaking up. They informed every document put out by PHAR concerning RAD including public comment, fact sheets, and list of 143 questions still unanswered by RAD. They learned about the effects and processes of RAD in other communities, and sent a Intern Letter to Residents explaining what RAD is all about. Their impact has been huge! CRHA realized it was not prepared to make a decision about RAD in 2013. Guarantees have been made if the discussion is to move forward. If RAD becomes inevitable it will only happen with resident support and will have to ultimately benefit residents and be decided by residents on their own terms. Residents around the country have felt the impact of intern organizing on RAD! Residents are learning from PHAR’s example that decision making on RAD has to be on resident terms! PHAR is very proud of the history these women have made in their organizing efforts!

Congratulations and Thank You!

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PHAR trip to Hopewell- RAD

On Jnauary 10, 2014, PHAR Interns organized a trip to Hopewell, Va to learn more about RAD. Hopewell was in the process of making the conversion. PHAR learned a lot about RAD (and Hopewell) and we want to share that information with you!

Feel free to review the power point presentation about the trip. Make sure to contact PHAR anytime about how to get involved in organizing around RAD brandon@pharcville.org

Here’s the Hopwell RAD Powerpoint

langston backside

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Resident Training: RAD-What Residents Need to Know January 23

RENTAL ASSISTANCE DEMONSTRATION

aka
RAD
Want to Learn More about RAD and how it will affect residents in public housing?

Learn More from a Resident Perspective!!!

Join Ed Gramlich from the
National Low Income Housing Coalition and PHAR for:
“RAD- Key Features for Public Housing Residents”
a training and question and answer session focused on
resident rights, responsibilities and concerns.

Thursday, January 23
2:00 pm
and again at
5:30 pm
City Hall in City Council Chambers
(across from free speech wall, second floor city hall)

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Support PHAR in 2014- Make Your Donation Today

Greetings, this holiday season of giving.  This is a time of the year when many reflect on how fortunate they are, and are more conscious of those who are not as fortunate and want to do more to help them.  It is a time when we also look forward to a better year in 2014.

Visit us on-line to make your contribution.

Our town, a beautiful city of national historic significance is home to a diverse population of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds and the University of Virginia (UVA).  The attractiveness of Charlottesville and UVA, have brought many to our city, increasing both the demand for housing, and housing costs that have most adversely affected the affordable housing available to low income households.

Affordable housing for many low income families in Charlottesville is Public Housing – 376 units managed by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA). To provide a voice for Charlottesville public housing residents in the decisions that affect their lives, The Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) was founded fifteen years ago.

PHAR has progressed to become one of the strongest and most well-known resident organizations in the country. PHAR’s governing board is made up entirely of people living in public housing. PHAR’s Advisory Council is made up of other community partners. PHAR’s mission is to educate and organize low income people to protect and improve our own community through collective action. PHAR advocates and organizes in our community for systemic changes and assists residents to improve their quality of life.

PHAR’s programs and activities positively impact the lives of residents of public housing:

  • The six month Internship program develops individual advocacy and leadership skills: Interns learn about public housing, local government, community organizing and public speaking. Graduates of PHAR’s intern program serve on local and national boards. More than 80% of intern graduates (excluding elderly or disabled) find employment or continue their education. Last year an intern graduate and his family celebrated their first Thanksgiving in their new Habitat home.
  • The Residents’ Bill of Rights ensures that residents can return after completion of any CRHA redevelopment.
  • Residents are represented at and encouraged to attend City or CRHA meetings affecting public housing in Charlottesville.
  • Residents are informed of any prospective policy changes affecting their tenancy and the consequences of these changes.
  • PHAR’s Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) Program links residents to community educational and job training opportunities and supportive services that promote independence and self- sufficiency and help elderly and disabled residents age in place.

Whether it involves attending meetings or issuing newsletters, brochures or speaking engagements, PHAR seeks to inform residents, community groups, legislators and social policy makers about the current needs, problems and accomplishments of Charlottesville public housing residents.  Our ultimate aim is to demonstrate that all citizens are important and can play a role in making a community active and viable.

Your contribution goes directly to supporting our efforts to achieve socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in Charlottesville have affordable and decent housing. We are not a United Way funded agency.  Contributions to PHAR are tax deductible.

Visit us on-line to contribute via PayPal.

…or mail a check made out to Public Housing Association of Residents to:
PHAR
1000 Preston Ave, Suite C
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Thank you for your support. Your generosity and kindness is much appreciated.

Happy Holidays!
Sincerely,

Sabrina Allen                                  Shymora Cooper                                      Jane Foster
Intern                                          Board of Directors                                  Advisory Council

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