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Partner Highlight: Portland Housing Authority

If you have ever walked through a Portland Housing Authority (PHA) site, likely you have seen a room with a computer, art hanging on the walls, and tables ready to use. Known as the study center, the area is an essential part of the services PHA provides to families in their communities. A conversation with Resident Services Manager, Emily Mancini-Fitch quickly reveals the overwhelming value the space and services are to residents, from adults to preschoolers.

The study centers physically provide resources many families in the housing communities lack, including a computer, printer, table space and a quiet area, but find themselves in need of to accomplish job applications, homework, or other activities. Though the physical component of the room is an essential resource, the study centers provide much more to residents.

According to Emily, every study center consists of two staff members – an AmeriCorps volunteer and another part-time individual. Each year she encourages the new member to incorporate their own passion, such as painting or STEM, into lessons with the kids, in the long run exposing them to a wide variety of skills and people. According to Emily this proves so beneficial because “the kids get to see there are a lot of people in the world who care about them and are invested in them.” 

While staff members bring valuable programming and unique talents, Emily remains steadfast in belief that the most important part of the job is being present and consistent in support for the families and kids. Through this, staff will understand the true needs of the families while building relationships and trust. She says “I train them that the kids and families are the experts in the community. If you want to make an impact you need to get to know them, listen to them, hear what they have to say and do what you can to support them.”

The physical space study centers provide along with the services and relationships yielded make an important impact on families residing in the housing. Emily says “There are so many different challenges that prevent the families from being able to support their children as much as they want to. By being a consistent space in the community, parents know we are there if a child needs a computer for homework or a quiet space to focus.” Through the services Emily and her staff provide to the PHA communities, they fill gaps and help families move toward success; whether that looks like a place for kindergarten students to paint or second graders to do homework the staff are present and ready to help in anyway.

Emily notes that Portland Housing Authorities partnership with Starting Strong helps fill the gaps in PHA’s available resources for kids. She sits on the Summer Literacy workgroup, where many summer/after school program providers collaborate to ensure all needs of kids are met. Emily identifies this work helps “if one of my study center coordinators sees a need from a child/family, I can tell them something I heard about at the workgroup table.” With great partners like PHA, Starting Strong continues to meet needs of Portland kids to help that succeed. Thanks Portland Housing Authority!