Housing on Merit is pleased to announce the May launch of our Virtual Resident Services program, designed to provide important support services to residents in our communities during these unprecedented times that for safety reasons hamper in-person resident services. Virtual Resident Services allow our Resident Services Coordinators (RSCs) to provide residents with academic tutoring, assistance with arts and crafts projects, and companionship via phone and video conferencing. Resident feedback has been overwhelmingly positive thus far, with many sharing that before the launch of our Virtual Resident Services they had been feeling isolated and disconnected due to the state-wide stay-at-home order. Parents and their children have expressed gratitude for our Virtual Homework Help program, which has provided assistance to youth as they navigate the challenges of online schooling.
In addition, Housing on Merit distributed to residents resource lists of local and national organizations that offer rental payment relief, assistance with utility and credit card bills, free access to Wi-Fi, remote learning services, and more. In addition, we are working with community partners to soon provide free hot meal services to residents at our San Diego communities and an on-site food truck at one of our Washington D.C. properties. Housing on Merit understands the importance of adapting our programming to bridge the gap in services and resources available to residents during these unprecedented times, and we will continue to work diligently to develop new resident services programming and partner with community organizations to address the needs of residents in our communities.
During these unprecedented times, Housing on Merit maintains our commitment to developing and preserving affordable housing communities where residents can access support services and growth opportunities to maintain safe, stable housing. We have made thoughtful decisions to help ensure our staff are protected, and our partners and residents feel supported. In the coming weeks, we will expand our resident services programming to include virtual programming to keep residents engaged and to ensure we are doing our best to address their needs.
We will continue to closely monitor CDC and other government guidelines related to COVID-19, and make any adjustments necessary to carry on with our important work. There has never been a better time to give to Housing on Merit. In accordance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, donors can make a charitable contribution and deduct the full amount up to their Adjusted Gross Income. Your donations go a long way in ensuring that Housing on Merit continues to create bridges to permanent affordable housing for vulnerable populations. You can make a donation here.
Housing on Merit’s Program and Planning Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, attended MANA de San Diego 2020 Networking Breakfast at the Lafayette Hotel on February 28th. The topic for this breakfast meeting was”Women’s Worth: Reclaiming Our Divinity & Our Destiny” and brought together Latina leaders from across San Diego. The keynote speaker was Starla Lewis, Professor Emeritus and CEO of Celebration of Everlasting Life and Love (C.E.L.L.) consulting. Lewis has been a college professor of African-American studies for the past 39 years, and her work as a life coach teaching people to gain mastery over their lives. Ms. Lewis describes her presentation style as “edu-taining,” and her goal is to provide her audience with meaningful learning experiences. ISHE, a creative visionary and author, and YahYah, an eighteen-year-old creative visionary, were also fellow speakers at the breakfast. The speakers make up three generations of leaders in women empowerment with Ms. Lewis, her daughter ISHE, and grandaughter YahYah. They will also be speaking at San Diego Women’s Week!
Housing on Merit is one of the 4,700 organizations that have signed a letter urging Congress to include extensive investments in affordable homes. The House Financial Services Committee is set to vote on “The Housing Is Infrastructure Act“ Tuesday, February 25th. This bill will make robust investments in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and public housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) is a strong proponent for this act because this infrastructure package enacted by Congress increases and preserves the supply of affordable homes for people with the lowest incomes. HOM is proud to sign the letter and support the NLIHC to secure an infrastructure package that addresses housing challenges faced by extremely low-income families.
Throughout quarter two, Housing on Merit provided over 570 hours of after-school programming across our communities.
Volunteers from San Diego State University’s College of Education developed a month-long Art Camp for youth at Rio Vista Apartments in San Diego, California Camp participants were encouraged to explore different art mediums such as paint, collage, and sculpture. They then created their own masterpieces for the community art show, held at the Learning Center. The Art Camp was a success and garnered interest from residents of all ages. All participants wrote thank-you letters to the camp volunteers to express their appreciation for being able to participate in the Art Camp.
Housing on Merit’s Housing Innovation Coordinator, Charly Ligety, attended the Navigating Opportunity Zones seminar in Los Angeles on June 12. “Opportunity Zone” is a designation created by the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 to encourage economic development and job creation in distressed communities across the nation. Over the last year homeless rates have risen 12% in Los Angeles County and 16% in the City of Los Angeles, highlighting the urgent need for new affordable housing development. The event, hosted by the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Enterprise Community Partners, was designed to provide nonprofit organizations, public agencies, elected officials and developers with a greater understanding about how to best utilize tax incentives without exacerbating displacement and gentrification, how to identify Opportunity Zones in Los Angeles County, and best practices in affordable housing, community and economic development. The event also included a Q&A with panelists Lori Chatman, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Community Investment, Inc. and President of Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Inc.; Ron Frierson, Director of Economic Policy, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development; and Ben Winter, Chief Housing Officer, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Housing on Merit continues to expand its impact and nationwide exposure within the affordable housing industry. As part of this effort, Executive Director Jennifer Litwak attended the 2019 Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network’s Spring Leadership Summit in Kansas City, Mo., on June 6-7. The Summit provided attendees professional development and learning opportunities to advance their leadership skills. The CREW Network was developed to bring together women involved in various aspects of commercial real estate to exchange information, develop business contacts and support each other’s successes. Ms. Litwak is an appointed member of CREW Network’s Member Education Committee and the Scholarship Selection Committee, and serves on CREW San Diego’s Board of Directors. CREW Network membership has grown to 11,000 worldwide and is now in more than 75 major markets.
Housing on Merit and Standard Communities were selected as a Tax Credit Excellence Award Winner for the preservation of the Fort Chaplin Park Apartments at the 25th Annual Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Awards in Washington, D.C., on June 4. Each year the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition (AHTCC) honors outstanding low-income housing tax credit developments, and the Fort Chaplin Park Apartment complex was the top choice among a panel of experts in the Preservation category. The award highlights the strong partnership between HOM and Standard Communities and their dedication to the creation, improvement and preservation of affordable housing nationwide. The transformation of the 549-unit Fort Chaplin Park Apartments included a comprehensive renovation of unit interiors and the modernization of building systems. The project also includes the addition of a 5,000 square foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified Community Center, which serves as a hub for resident services and programming that focuses on academic excellence, health and wellness, employment and financial stability, and growth and empowerment.
Housing on Merit held a graduation event to recognize and celebrate three students who recently earned their high school diplomas. Valeria Parra, Melissa Ruiz and Bryana Ingle have been long-time participants of the tutoring, mentoring and educational programs offered at Vista La Rosa’s Learning Center, in San Diego, CA, which provides residents with ongoing support to pursue personal and academic success. In recognition of their accomplishments, Resident Services staff provided each graduate with a card, flowers and a certificate from HOM. The students were also given guidance and advice in time management, organizational skills and with registering for classes. Future plans for the three graduates include attending San Diego State University and joining the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Law Enforcement Explorer Program.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, was awarded a certificate of completion for the Nonprofit Leadership Program in June 2019 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Executive Education. Coursework included Mobilizing Your Nonprofit Board, Nonprofit Financial Stewardship, and Performance Measurement for Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations. Each program is part of the Nonprofit Leadership Executive Certificate series, which was designed with the understanding that effective leadership requires a continuous commitment to learning, building new skills and expanding a global community of leaders. The programs also align with Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Core Qualifications that include the competencies of Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen and Building Coalitions.
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