People First is nationally recognized for our exemplary Community Services Department and support services to our residents. We take pride in being much more than a key for all of our residents.
We are successfully administering four Neighborhood Networks Center grants for our HOPE VI, Gillmore Village, Perretta Twin Towers, and Adrean Terrace/N.D. Peters Manor/F.X Matt developments. We have also successfully completed Family Self-Sufficiency, Homeownership Supportive Services, ROSS Elderly/Disabled programs, FY2008 ROSS Service Coordinator, and Family Self-Sufficiency (Renewal) grants.
People First continues to develop new programs and partnerships between the public and private sectors to improve the quality of services and programs for our residents, as well as to better meet our residents’ educational, employment, health, and cultural needs. Several years ago, in conjunction with Mohawk Valley Community College, People First developed a resident education center at our former central maintenance facility to provide training in construction skills and green occupations. We have also developed a community health education and a sustainable farming/community gardening program targeting our refugee residents.
People First possesses a high-level of expertise and competence with respect to forming strong and long-term partnerships with local providers to implement a range of programs for our residents. We have created a Community Network Coalition and Program Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from approximately 25 supportive service providers in the City of Utica and Oneida County. This committee meets twice monthly to discuss programs, review cases of specific People First families, and provide a collegial environment in which the supportive service providers and case managers from the different organizations can meet.
Through our Community Services Department, a comprehensive range of services is provided directly by People First staff or participating agencies. The Community Resource Department provides space at People First’s properties for the participating agencies of the Community Network Coalition to deliver community and supportive services for residents. We provide an array of comprehensive services, including tutoring and a youth mentoring program, English as a Second Language, GED, Adult Basic Education, drug prevention, child care, youth development programs, Boy and Cub Scouts, parenting education, senior services, and communal meals. To ensure that these services meet the needs of our residents, our Community Resources Department conducts outreach, recruits residents for programs, and implements follow-up assistance and tracking services.
Our Community Services Department has worked collaboratively with People First Asset Managers to assist residents in complying with their leases and continuing to live in affordable housing. Asset managers and Tenant Relations staff provide the Community Services Department with service referrals on a regular basis including eviction prevention services. Between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2011, 104 residents have received eviction prevention services, 63 of which were referrals due to past due rent. Of the 63, 41 residents have been able to remain in their household and received services that allowed them to satisfy their back rent payments.
In 2011, People First developed a tenant retention and structured eviction prevention plan focused on residents’ past due rent arrears. Agencies such as Mohawk Valley Community Action, Consumer Credit Counseling, and Cornell Cooperative Extension have partnered with People First to provide emergency rental assistance as well as budget counseling programs that help break the cycle of delinquent rent. People First has also helped our residents access AARA funds for eviction prevention.
In 2011, People First retained the services of a registered nurse to assess the need for resident health programs, deliver health screenings, conduct health fairs, and provide medical-based case management services. This program has enabled residents to gain access to primary health care and preventive services.
In 2011, People First provided funding for an Education Facilitator position through its ROSS grants and AMP funding to provide education, job training, and self-sufficiency services for affordable housing residents. The Education Facilitator is a certified teacher who provides direct instructional services, coordinates a volunteer tutoring program, and administers the Family Self-Sufficiency Program and other resident services.
In conjunction with Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC), People First has developed an Education Center which offers our local residents training in home renovation, construction skills, green housing development, and lead safe work practices training. Located in the People First former central maintenance facility, which is adjacent to our senior housing units, the Center began offering training programs starting in July 2010. Since then, courses have been offered in Lead Safety, Asbestos Abatement, Masonry, and Environmental Technician. The Education Center targets affordable housing as well as other low income housing residents in our community. Training services are provided on an in-kind basis by MVCC, which leases the site from People First. Building rehabilitation activities were performed in order to ensure compliance with the appropriate higher education accrediting bodies.
In March 2012, Mohawk Valley Community College was awarded an Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) grant from the United States Department of Education. Located at the Education Center site, the EOC provides information and counseling to individuals who would like to attend college or other postsecondary education institutions. Services offered include:
- Career planning
- Preparatory seminars
- Financial and Academic assistance
- GED Referral
The EOC and the Education Center are important elements of the People First community economic development plan, to provide job training and educational opportunities to low-income, Section 8 eligible residents of the City of Utica. These programs help our unemployed residents to transition from public assistance programs to economic self-sufficiency. In addition, they train our residents in “green economy” careers, such as weatherization and deconstruction.
In 2010, People First was awarded a planning grant to develop a year-round AmeriCorps program, to provide education and training services to affordable housing residents. An AmeriCorps grant has allowed People First to continue to maintain resident service programs in the absence of HUD funding for these activities. Planning grant activities were successfully completed, including a survey of low-income housing residents, focus groups targeting local agencies and residents, a needs assessment based upon census and other demographic data sources. In January 2012, People First applied to the Corporation for National Service and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services for an AmeriCorps grant which would provide self-sufficiency, financial literacy, and housing referral residents to low-income City of Utica residents as well as public housing tenants. Homeless persons and veterans have been targeted through this program.