By Katie Sobiech
As we wrap up this series on the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA), we hope to have portrayed the many facets of what they do for our community.
Though a 5-part series cannot capture this organization in its entirety, there is more to be discovered by those who would like to seek it further.
Whether you would like to volunteer your time and talents, look into this as a place of employment, or apply for housing, this is a group that focuses on providing the all-around best when it comes to community interests.
Caring for Families
One of the most beneficial aspects of AMHA is that they do not just provide housing and leave people to fend for themselves. Instead, they encourage involvement in community activities and programs to better people’s lives.
One of their most popular gatherings are family events where local agencies show up to let people who are struggling know what is available to them in the community.
This helps build a sense of community, particularly around early childhood.
“We might have the Zoo Mobile come, or have pumpkin decorating at Halloween…We (always) have something that’s fun for them,” Chris Yuhasz, Community Relations Director at AMHA, said.
“We feed them but also have people there from Child Guidance, Head Start and Help Me Grow, and from the libraries and schools. A lot of resources come in and they get a little card and have to go around to all of the agencies and get the initials or stamp on their card. If they fill up their card, meaning they’ve learned about their services, they get entered into a drawing,” Yuhasz continued of its perks.
This not only educates families on community resources available for their kids, but allows other agencies programs to grow.
“All of the agencies in the community have wonderful programs, so we’re really the connectors,” Yuhasz explained.
The problems these families face go far beyond housing, which fuels the desperate need for them to get connected to various agencies.
“We find all kinds of other issues in the households. They could have money problems, there could be drug or alcohol abuse by somebody in the household, there could be spousal abuse taking place,” Yuhasz said.
“It’s not just one thing – it’s a lot of things. You start to see how difficult it is to try to get them to make time to do the right thing for the kids,” she continued.
So this is where AMHA steps in.
Teaching the Basics
One of their biggest problems, believe it or not, is with housekeeping.
“The hardest thing is to get people to take care of the place and keep it clean,” Anthony O’ Leary, Executive Director of AMHA, said.
“We actually have people on staff that will go over and take cleaning supplies and show them the way to clean. Their apartment’s not clean if their mom didn’t clean or know how to keep a house. Especially some of these young moms who come in that are 17, 18 and 19 years old. In a lot of cases, they don’t know,” O’Leary continued.
AMHA educates these families on everything from how much dishwashing detergent to use, to what kind of cleaning supplies need to be used.
AMHA’s future plans are to continue to educate families and their children, but take it to the next level.
Plans have already been made for the new education center in Summit Lake, which will be life-changing for the neighborhood as a whole.
“Our goal is to be able to get to the point where there’s an assessment of every family as they come in, and then we try to get them into services that (they need),” O’Leary said.
They have begun doing this as a part of their Resident Services Strategic Plan.
Plenty of volunteer options, including company volunteer options will be made available in the coming year as well…
For those interested in helping this endeavor move forward, they are looking at creating a volunteer program. Help is always needed for events, childcare and education.
“Even a speaker. There might be a business person for example. If an employer or someone who hires is willing to come in and talk to a class about ‘this is our business and these are the kind of things we look for in employees’ (that would be great),” O’Leary said.
“It might be an HR person in a hospital that would be willing to volunteer an hour and share what entry level positions there are, career fields, what kind of training would be necessary and where you go for that,” he continued.
This will help get these aspiring career people on the right paths.
AMHA is determined to find solutions and make changes in the way our city and hopefully many cities do things. And it is crucial for the government to see results in what they do in order to continue funding them.
“(The funders) want impact. They want to see something that can be duplicated elsewhere (in the world),” Yuhasz said.
And that’s what AMHA is aiming to do.
For more information on the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority please visit. http://www.akronhousing.org/