Helping people help themselves to someday leave public housing was the goal of a conference Wednesday sponsored by the public housing authority in Springfield Massachusetts. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Every parent seeks a better life for their children was the motivational message aimed at more than 100 mostly young parents who attended today’s conference, some with their children in tow.
Natashia Hernandez has lived in public housing in Springfield for two years. She has five children, and recently lost her job at a coffee shop. She came to the conference looking for guidance
Jeremy Rodriquez said he is also looking to move out of public housing.
The Springfield Housing Authority, which manages 25 hundred apartments at 27 sites and administers thousands of rental vouchers for low income people, hosted the conference. SHA executive director William Abrashkin said the goal was to help break a cycle of disadvantage that families find themselves stuck in due to lack of skills, education and a support network.
The conference featured motivational speakers discussing family self-sufficiency, workshops on personal finance, home ownership, and education.
Abrashkin said the housing authority staff will follow up with the people who came to the conference in an attempt to keep them connected with the resources they need.
The conference was an offshoot of a children’s literacy program called Talk-Read-Succeed. It is an initiative at two Spingfield Housing Authority apartment complex that seeks to intensely engage parents in their children’s education beginning at a very young age. Rosemary Hernandez Garcia, a staffer with the literacy program said feed back from its participants helped shape the conference.
The conference was not strictly limited to tenants of the Springfield Housing Authority. Jessica Martinez received emergency housing through the state’s homelessness prevention program after the apartment where she was living with her two children was condemned.
Martinez said she can remain in her apartment for three years so long as she abides by the rules of the state program which include getting a job, or furthering her education.
There was a 30 percent increase in the number of families seeking state housing assistance last year, according to state officials, and that exceeded the funding for the state’s homeless prevention program.