SHA Rental Assistance Office
New SHA office aims for a culture of independence
It’s a new SHA department that, if successful, will work its way out of existence.
The Participant Services Department will work with residents of the Rental Assistance Office to help guide them away from public assistance and towards independence.
The new department is staffed by three: Loleta Collins, manager, Joseph Dumpson, family self-sufficiency coordinator, and Pamela Ledoux, homeownership coordinator.
Collins said the main thrust of the office will help those with Rental Assistance vouchers – known as ‘Section 8s’ – towards education, job training, jobs, homeownership, and all other things that will lead towards financial independence and stability.
“We want to help residents become economically independent, and we’re putting in services to help them achieve that goal,” Collins said. “The premise is to help low-income people increase their earned incomes and reduce their dependency on others.”
Collins has a good track record doing just that at SHA. Hired in 2013 as homeownership coordinator, she has guided 13 into the complicated process of qualifying for and buying a home. SHA decided to expand the program, which is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development incentive. SHA leads the state in the program, with 57 Section 8 families buying homes here since 2003.
SHA Executive Director William H. Abrashkin said the expanded office is part of an ongoing effort to promote education, job training and independence among all residents who receive rental assistance from the agency.
“The purpose for establishing this department is to help participating families access the supports and services needed to improve their circumstances and to access greater opportunities for themselves and their children,” Abrashkin said.
Participant Services will offer assistance with home ownership, mobility to areas of greater opportunity, and a variety of family self-sufficiency programs such as education, employment training and placement, financial literacy and planning, and associated skills,” he noted. “Our goal is to assist as many participants as possible in decreasing dependence on public assistance and achieving a more hopeful future.”
Collins is working with her new staff to develop and implement the program. Their focus will be on homeownership, a program that is already underway; mobility, or helping people and families move out of high-poverty areas; and family self-sufficiency.
“We’ll be doing a lot of outreach, connecting with people where they’re at and help them achieve their own individual goals,” she said. “We’ll let them know about resources available.”
Collins plans to work with outside schools and agencies, including Springfield Technical Community College, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Head Start, and more.
Collins, Dumpson and Ledoux said they look forward to sharing success stories as the program grows and moves forward.
Dumpson said he feels he is a perfect fit for the program, having grown up in public housing in Springfield with an understanding of what that is like, and how the system works.
“I have an understanding of the make-up and mentality and feelings,” he said. “In knowing that, you know how to address it. It’s a true first-hand knowledge. First-hand knowledge and empathy go a long way.”
Dumpson now holds a master’s degree in education with a focus on counseling, and has done both volunteer and professional work with local organizations, including the Hampden County House of Corrections.
Ledoux is a former teacher who has worked at area agencies including Stavros, Highland Valley Elder Services, and in a first-time homebuyers’ program in Hampshire County. She believes her recent work has paved the way for helping to guide renters here to become homeowners.
“I love the job. I love the people, and I love the work,” Ledoux said.
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