Technology keeps Springfield Housing Authority families connected
At Springfield Housing Authority family developments, keeping a safe social distance does not mean being isolated from important contacts.
SHA Outreach Coordinators at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens Apartments have been reaching out to families regularly, using telephone calls and video connections to make conversational contacts that keep both parents and children connected.
The calls include chats with parents and children, read-alouds to the younger set, sessions on parenting and home schooling, and many connections to programs and services that are available during these COVID-19 isolation times. Outreach at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens comes through Talk/Read/Succeed!, the family-based early literacy program that connects housing with schools and other services that support children and parents.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan applauded the work underway at both developments, noting the importance of human connections shared by everyone. Parents staying home with children during these COVID-19 social distancing times are particularly needing contact from the outside, she said.
“This is a great example of how we continue to work with our residents despite everyone having to shelter at home,” Jordan said.
“With these regular electronic reach-outs, we are able to provide connections to schoolwork as well as to determine whether our families are in need of any assistance that we can help provide,” she added.
SHA Resident Services Director Pamela Wells said outreach workers across the agency are working to keep in touch with residents as they shelter at home. T/R/S! is an important part of that.
“It is important to support our T/R/S! families during these challenging times,” Wells said. “We are staying in contact in multiple ways including zoom. Our HiSet (high school equivalency) students are attending class using Google classroom and we are updating our TRS Facebook page frequently.”
At Sullivan, Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos has been conducting telephone calls to stay connected with families and to offer help as needed with important measures the city is taking, like providing computers to school children who lack them, and meals to all city children during this isolation. She is planning to use Zoom to connect with video soon.
Her ongoing calls with residents at Sullivan are both constructive and fun.
“I’m trying to stay in touch with all of our families at Sullivan,” said Zenaida, whose work covers residents at the development that includes 196 families. T/R/S! provides comprehensive programs and connecting services for families, with a focus on children but including all.
“I do encourage the children and families to do literacy activities, as well as physical activities,” she said. “We also talk about the importance of continuing to have their children do their schoolwork, and basically just stay connected.”
She added, “I have connected with most of the residents at Sullivan. I encourage them to partake on the school lunches and dinners at Boland Elementary School. I give them information on food pantries and the importance of social distancing. I encourage children and families to do literacy activities, as well as physical activities, and we talk about the importance of continuing to have their children do their schoolwork.”
At Sullivan, most families have picked up their computer tablet at the school for their children. If they need further assistance or have any questions, they call Burgos and she helps.
“The residents are very happy that through these difficult times, I connect with and check in via phone with their family. They are very grateful for the support,” Burgos said.
At Robinson Gardens, Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino is doing similar work, connecting with families in the 136-unit complex using video applications Zoom and Google Video, and on regular telephone calls.
Two recent sessions included a session for parents and another for children.
The session with parents included discussion on helping children learn at home, how to access needed resources, and even talk about choosing schools in the fall for children to are transitioning to kindergarten, middle or high school.
“I have talked with a family about school choice for the upcoming school year, helped a family a couple of times with their school computers, and lent an ear to a family that is struggling with a parent that is dying from cancer,” said Cimino, noting the variety of concerns that parents are facing as they stay mostly at home.
The children’s session featured a read-aloud by Cimino of the book ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Reese. After reading, she facilitated a discussion in which children explored the book on a deeper level, finding meaning for their own lives.
“I feel the Zoom meetings are worth holding,” Cimino said. “They give parents and the children a time to connect with someone they know and are able to see their friends and neighbors on the screen. I too miss all of them. It is nice to be able to connect and actually see them.”
SHA offices are open with limited hours at present due to COVID-19 restrictions. Jordan said residents are encouraged to reach out for any help they may need while sheltering.
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