Constance Scott began working at the Pittsfield Housing Authority in 1988 as a receptionist, and worked her way up. Now, she’s taking over the agency as its new Executive Director. The PHA manages low-rent public housing and Section 8 programs in the city of around 43,000. Scott spoke with WAMC about her plans, and how her initial expectations of its mission years ago were changed.
SCOTT: The obvious right now is dealing with the COVID-19. And not being able to get the tenants in to the office or be as social as we were prior to this pandemic.
WAMC: When you look at the Pittsfield Housing Authority today, what's your plan now that you're in charge? Are there improvements you want to make, changes to policy? What's the Constance effect going to be?
One definitely say they would like to make- And it has to do with a better tie with the community, meaning the not only the residents of our developments, but also the different agencies that, I think- A combination of all. We have great ideas, but they're not gelled together yet, and I believe there's a possibility when it comes to housing, when it comes to assistance to the tenants that need extra help, or someone just to come alongside them and help them stay not only good tenants, but productive tenants.
What do you see is the most important part of that relationship between the Housing Authority and the tenants?
Respect. Respect for the tenants and in return, respect for the agency and the services that we provide.
You've been at the agency for a long time-
I'm interested, how have you seen issues around housing change over that time?
I'll tell you initially, when I started working at Housing Authority, I was naive in the fact that my expectation of what the Housing Authority did for the tenants and then also that the tenants would go through the process of being housed, raise their families and move on to… I want to say this right. Not bigger and better things, but the next part of their journey in housing, which I thought it would be to go through our program, and then at some point end up with the home of their own. And that's not the case.
So what have you found to be the case instead?
That we have more of a work still left to do. Because it's not- I would expect that the tenants would feel settled in their homes and there will be more of a community. Honestly, that's what I'm looking for, a community that is for helping each other.
So part of what you're saying is that folks end up sort of staying in the housing for maybe longer than you initially expected.
Or probably longer than they've expected to, because as you can see, I mean, life changes, really quick. Situations come up. But yes, I do think some stay longer than they thought they would.
So some of your interest is investing in that community, given that it's going to be a longer timeframe than then maybe some expected initially.
Constance, anything else we should know your stepping into this new role?
There is. I read a very interesting comment to my family and friends congratulating me. And one of the things I think all of them realized, being here for 32 years, I've seen a lot of staff go through this place. I've seen a lot of- well, three very good… Four, I apologize, very good directors. And I think the history or hopefully the legend that I leave for the Housing Authority would be one that would continue long after I'm gone and a good one at that.