December 1st Strategic Planning Meeting

PHAR Board Members and Advisory Board Members spent the day in strategic discussion around PHAR’s plans for the next few months.

We had a great group of Board and Advisory Board Members at the Strategic Planning Meeting on Saturday, December 1. Thanks to all those that came out!

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The CRHA Barment Policy: What is changing?

Resident Input Needed! – November 8th !!!

What is barment? (Also called “No Trespass Authority”)

People who are barred from Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) sites can be arrested if they come on-site. CRHA sites are private property and police can get a criminal warrant for a trespassing charge. Having visitors who are barred can also put a CRHA resident at risk for eviction.

The policy now being looked at is a draft. You should have gotten a copy from the Housing Authority, along with a flyer for the Resident Services Meeting on Thursday, November 8 at 1:00 at Crescent Halls. Please come to the meeting and give your opinion! A final vote will be taken on November 26 at the CRHA Board Meeting.

PHAR wants to make sure that the policy includes:

More control over when police can stop and question people.

Greater abilities to appeal and challenge CRHA barment of family members.

Limited use of criminal background checks for removal from the bar list.

Automatic removal from the barment list

Here is what the final draft says:

1. Only people with a “legitimate” reason to visit are allowed to be in a public housing site. This includes anyone dropping someone off or picking someone up, visiting a resident, etc.

2. A police officer may stop and question someone if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is either doing something against the law or that s/he does not have a legitimate reason to be on the property.

3. If a police officer bars someone, the police must tell a CRHA Property Manager or the Executive Director within 24 hours.

4. The Executive Director has 30 business days to decide whether or not the person should be barred.

5. Anyone barred should be told within 15 days of the Executive Director’s decision.

6. The amount of time someone is barred for is based on what they are accused of doing:

a. Suspected nuisance: up to 6 months barred if someone is being a nuisance (including causing disruption, disturbing the peace and not stopping after a CRHA staff member or police officer asks and other minor violations.

b. Suspected misdemeanor: up to 2 years barred. This includes possible non-violent crimes and “low-level” drug activity.

c. Suspected domestic violence, manufacture or distribution of illegal drugs, violent criminal activity: up to 7 years barred.

7. Applying to get unbarred:

– After the barment time is over, the barred person can apply to be removed at any site or Central Office. Asking to be unbarred includes letting CRHA do a criminal background check and filling out a request form.

– The Executive Director must unbar the person within 15 days, unless CRHA shows proof in writing of more misconduct by that person.

– People barred for suspected domestic violence, manufacture or distribution of illegal drugs, violent criminal activity (see (c) previous page) apply the same way, and may also have to do community service and/or restorative justice before being unbarred.

– The Executive Director can unbar someone at any time, and may consider a resident’s written agreement to take responsibility for the visitor’s conduct.

– If the Executive Director decides someone should not be unbarred, the resident who wants the visitor to be unbarred can meet with the Executive Director, Restorative Justice and/or Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR). If the person wanting to be unbarred does not have a resident’s support, the Executive Director’s decision after the meeting is final.

– Residents always have the option to go to court to try to get a visitor unbarred. Call the Legal Aid Justice Center (434-977-0553) for more information.

8. Appeal rights: If the Executive Director decides not to unbar someone wants to be unbarred and has the support of a resident, an appeal can be filed. A written request for an appeal must be sent to the Executive Director within 30 days of the decision not to unbar. Residents always have the option to go to court to try to get a visitor unbarred. Call the Legal Aid Justice Center (434-977-0553) for more information.

9. Currently barred people are covered by this policy, and may apply to be unbarred. The time limits above may be used. See Part 7- As soon as CRHA accepts this policy many people will be able to come off of the bar list!

10. Temporary/Special Visits: A resident may apply for a barred person to visit for special events or for good cause (such as child care or elder care, graduations, birthdays, holidays, or for helping to move large household items). The Executive Director or assigned staff decides whether to allow this.

How does this sound to you?

Are these good ways to help keep your neighborhood safe, or

is this too much control over visitors and residents?

Come to the meeting – Thursday, November 8 at 1:00 pm at Crescent Halls – to share your thoughts! Also join us on Monday November 26, 7 pm at City Hall to speak up before the final vote is taken!

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Residents Fight Excess Utility Fees with Lawsuit !!!

PHAR joined with residents in bringing a lawsuit against the CRHA to continue the long battle to stop over charging for excess utilities! Since 2003 residents have consistently been hit with high charges for going over their allotted amount of electricity. Every month at least half of all residents receieve an excess utiltiy bill. Typically more than 75% of all residents receive notice to pay for exceeding the amount allotted for electricity. 

HUD regulations state that rent plus utilities is supposed to be 30% of income! Some people are paying more in excess utility fees than they are in rent! PHAR has been working hard for two years to stop the illegal over charges. Residents have had extreme hardships due to these fees, if you don;t pay your excess electric, you can be evicted, some have had to go to payday lendersCRHA has left us no choice but to sue.

We want to see 3 things happen:
– stopping charging people illegally for excess utilities !!!
– pay back the money !!!
– make good on the $50 savings bonds for those who don't exceed the allotted amount 

This is a "class action" lawsuit which means that while their are many names on the lawsuit (including PHAR) the results will affect all residents who are harmed by the over charges.

Check out these news stories about the lawsuit, and PHAR sends many thanks to Janyce Lewis for sticking her neck out in the press and for being a strong voice for public housing communities!

NBC29

Newsplex

WINA

Daily Progress

The Republic 

If you live in piblic housing in Charlottesville and want to add your name to lawsuit make sure to contact the Legal Aid Justice Center (434) 977-0553

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Community Budget Input Forum Wednesday, March 21 7:00 pm “City Space” (next to City in Hall in Market St. parking garage)

              

Come speak up for PHAR’s goals for the City of Charlottesville and the funding required to make it happen!  Join PHAR members and supporters as we chime in on budgeting for the City of Charlottesville! Feel free to speak, or just show up and show support.

 DON’T FORGET to wear your PHAR T-Shirt!

Here’s what we want:

1. Support and improve public housing communities –

  • Expand support for the Nursing Clinics at Westhaven and Crescent Halls to better serve  residents and provide a living wage with benefits to employees.
  • Continue supporting PHAR and our efforts to organize residents, including the PHAR Internship Program ($50,000 is needed).
  • Increase funding for Community Policing in public housing neighborhoods

2. Increase programs for low-income youth –

  • Provide High quality after-school programs in the South First Street and 6th Street community centers.
  • Expand support for Helping Young People Evolve (HYPE) Boxing Club.
  • Provide computers at South First Street and 6th Street community centers.

3. Expand re-entry opportunities for ex-offenders –

  • Add at least 10-15 positions for the “Home to Work” program to provide work experience for ex-felons.

We want these things to happen but remember- it all starts with the money! Tell your own views on these matters, share your personal experience and why these things need funding, or check out these great reasons for supporting PHAR’s agenda for the City:

  • We are not asking for a lot of funds compared to the overall budget.
  • It is time for Council to pay more attention to the needs of public housing residents.
  • Support and Improve public housing communities.
  • PHAR is necessary to express the concerns and needs of public housing residents.
  • Resident input is required by the government, don’t limit our ability to speak or organize.
  • The Internship program has helped dozens of residents to organize around community issues and improves our housing communities, as well as providing residents with marketable skills and education about job-hunting and stable employment.
  • PHAR’s grant request requires “level funding,” meaning it is not an increase from past years.

Consider also:

  • Nursing Clinics at Westhaven and Crescent Halls are vital to a healthy community.
  • Employees should be compensated for their hard work and dedication.
  • We don’t want a police state in our neighborhoods but we do need safety- community policing is effective in creating safe neighborhoods and builds community.
  • Increase programs for low-income youth-Charlottesville does not offer enough affordable activities for young people.
  • South 1st Street and 6th Street Community Centers after school programming will help parents and kids alike.
  • Computer skills and access should be available to all people, this helps with educational achievement and future employment opportunities.
  • HYPE has proven to be a popular activity for young people; it builds discipline and self worth.
  • Charlottesville is a “City of Second Chances” lets make that a reality for ex-offenders
  • Ex-Offenders have a very difficult time finding work which can lead to loss of dignity, re-offense, broken families, and impoverished neighborhoods.
  • The “Home to Work” program has been a success in the pilot stage, Council should commit to expanding it!
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Redevelopment – Slow But Steady So Stay Informed

While most of the costs for redevelopment of Charlottesville's public housing will be a long time in coming there has been some activity lately, especially around Crescent Hall.  Some of that is thanks to the advocacy of PHAR members who brought out the critical safety issues related to ongoing problems with the elevators. 

Here are two local articles that talk about what's being planned for Crescent Halland the Levy Properties.  Keep up with the website, follow PHAR on Facebook or come to meetings.  However you get your information stay on your toes so you know what's going on and can advocate on behalf of you, your families and your neighborhoods. 

2012 will be a big year with these plans and a presidential election.  Don't let it pass you by!

From C'ville:  Redevelopment Hinges on Radical Approach

 From Charlottesville Tomorrow:  Crescent Hall Renovations Kick Off Redevelopment

Here's an excerpt from the Charlottesville Tomorrow article showing why PHAR's win of the Residents' Bill of Rights for Redevelopment was so important:  Tolbert said an agreement between the CRHA and public housing residents requires the city to house any displaced residents while renovations are undertaken.

“One of the requirements for relocation is that we have a one-on-one with every tenant that lives there and talk about their needs,” Tolbert said. “There’s an opportunity as we do Crescent Hall to use the Levy site for relocation of the people living in Crescent Hall as that renovation goes forward.”

Private companies, as well as nonprofit groups, will be eligible to submit proposals for how to develop both Crescent and Levy. The winning bidder will have to uphold the requirement that the city maintain all 376 units as public housing.

“In my opinion, what’s not up for discussion and debate are those guarantees on resident participation, one-for-one replacement and right of return,” Norris said. 

 

 

 

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PHAR Residents Advocate for Safer Neighborhoods

At the recent City Council Neighborhood meeting at Crescent Hall, residents of Crescent Hall and Fifeville advocated for more police officers patrolling their neighborhood during the day and night, especially in Tonsler Park.  

From the C'ville Article:

"Crescent Hall resident Mary Carey, who wasn’t satisfied with Finkel’s responses, told Council members that, years ago, community policing felt inclusive and played a very important role in the neighborhood. Today, however, it has taken on new meaning.

“Community policing is like it says: community policing,” said Carey. “It’s not spot-checking police officers in neighborhoods. It’s bringing the neighborhood and the police together to police the neighborhood.”

For Crescent Hall resident Overy Johnson, creating a safe neighborhood goes beyond strict police work. In fact, Johnson, who grew up in New York City, says the community could police itself if its infrastructure, like parks, were regularly improved.

“It’s not about intimidating these young kids out there,” he tells C-VILLE. “Give the kids something they need.”"

To read the entire article click here

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Crescent Hall Residents Pack the House for a Town Hall Discussion With City Officials

Crescent Hall residents and their neighbors packed the house for a Town Hall discussion with Mayor Dave Norris (pictured), other members of City Council and City Manager Maurice Jones. Residents raised many important issues, including their months-long wait for fully functional elevators, safety and the need for neighborhood policing and faster responses to calls, high fees (excess utility and maintenance charges), the need for more employment opportunities and improvements to customer service for public housing residents.

 

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PHAR Advocacy Highlighted in Public Housing Tenant Newsletter

From the Summer 2011 Tenant Talk Newsletter of the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

Years of constant prodding by public housing leaders in Charlottesville, Virginia recently paid off when both the City Council and the Housing Authority approved a Section 3 Plan.  The purpose of Section 3 is to ensure that jobs and other economic opportunities created when HUD assists housing and community development projects go to low income people “to the greatest extent feasible.”

Charlottesville’s plan lays out the basic Section 3 requirements that the city, CRHA, and their contractors and subcontractors must follow when HUD dollars are spent.

To help achieve their goals, the city and CRHA will hire a Section 3 Coordinator to connect low income residents with contractors and subcontractors working on HUD-funded projects. The Section 3 Coordinator will help contractors and subcontractors understand their Section 3 obligations. The coordinator will also help them achieve their goals of hiring or training low income residents or subcontracting with Section 3 businesses. An advisory group including PHAR and key city officials will guide the Section 3 Coordinator.

Soon after Tom Perriello was sworn in as the U.S. Congressman representing the Charlottesville area in 2009, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Edwards convinced him of the value of Section 3. In June 2010, Congressman Perriello hosted a day-long Section 3 workshop with HUD Assistant Secretary John Trasviña. This added to a growing awareness that more needed to be done. When she was on the CRHA Board, Ms. Edwards introduced the idea of a Section 3 Plan. Charlottesville's Mayor, Dave Norris, is also on the CRHA Board and continued promoting the plan after Ms. Edward’s term ended. With the constant promotion of the plan, the Section 3 Plan was approved by both the city and CRHA in June 2011.

To read the full article click here.

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Bank On Greater Charlottesville

Three years ago, a group of people came together to start the Coalition for Economic Opportunity (CEO). PHAR was there from the start.

The goal of CEO is to help individuals and families become more independent and financially stable. CEO is now helping to start a program called Bank On Greater Charlottesville. The purpose of the Bank On Greater Charlottesville is to help people who don't have bank accounts and help people avoid expensive loans like payday loans and car title loans.

Through the Bank On program, it will be easier for people who don't have bank accounts to open and keep bank accounts. Studies show that, compared to having a bank account, it is much more expensive to use check cashers and money orders stores. Having a bank account and using it in the right ways can actually save you money.

The Bank On program will also help qualified people get affordable loans. This will help people who might be tempted to go to an expensive payday lender or car title lender and might get caught in the cycle of debt. Staying away from payday lenders and car title lenders can actually save you money. People need better options, and that is what Bank on will provide.

Another part of Bank On Greater Charlottesville is financial education. The program will offer classes throughout the community. These classes will give people important information about saving money and being financially stable. By attending classes, people can also receive financial rewards.

The Bank On program is a partnership with local banks and credit unions and local government. The goal is to help people become more independent and financially stable. The program will be launched in 2012. PHAR will continue to be involved as a coalition member to bring this new program to our community. Stay tuned for more information. 

To learn more about CEO and the Bank On program click here.

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PHAR Board Members and “Better Choices”

PHAR Board members Janyce Lewis (2nd from left) and Sylvia Taylor (2nd from right) attended the Better Choices for Virginia press conference with Legal Aid organizer Emily Dreyfus.  They were happy to run into PHAR’s first organizer, Ben Thacker-Gwaltney (now with Virginia Organizing).  The Better Choices for Virginia Coalition advocates for budget reforms, especially improvements  to Virginia’s tax system.  The current “cuts-only” approach to Virginia’s budget needs to be replaced with a balanced approach that looks at how we increase money coming into the system, instead of only cutting services and programs for Virginians. 

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