CINCINNATI — Violence and threats drove Moneaca Collins and her two sons from their Findlater Gardens townhouse less than a month ago.
But Collins was filled with hope for her former Winton Hills neighbors on Monday, thanks to a new initiative from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority.
The Resource Opportunity Center, or the ROC, aims to connect residents of CMHA’s Findlater Gardens and Winton Terrace subsidized housing communities with resources that can help them become more self-sufficient.
“What I hope this can accomplish is for the parents to be able to get jobs, to get the resources and the services they need to get out of Winton Terrace and make that next step to self-sufficiency,” said Collins, who was president of the Winton Terrace Resident Council before she moved to Findlater Gardens. “If the parents can’t provide for the children, then the children are going to go take off and do whatever it is they can to support themselves, and that’s what makes it hard.”
The ROC locations will open Aug. 19 at the Findlater Gardens rental office on Strand Lane and at the Winton Terrace Community Center on Winneste Avenue. Eight CMHA residents hired to be outreach workers will go door-to-door in the two communities to tell families about the resources available and help them make appointments at the ROC.
“A lot of people are not aware about the resources,” said Kevin Farmer, an outreach worker who lives in a CMHA apartment tower in Avondale. “I feel like when it comes to us, we’ll be able to generate more word of mouth.”
CMHA CEO Gregory Johnson said the inspiration for the new initiative came from residents themselves, and all the resources available are supports that residents asked for during community meetings held at Winton Hills Academy.
The number one request, he said, was for parenting classes.
“I think having the ROC is going to help our residents. It’s going to help our community as a whole,” Johnson said. “What we’re trying to do is do our part to make our community better, our city better.”
Johnson unveiled the initiative at Winton Hills Academy Monday, surrounded by dignitaries, Winton Hills residents and representatives of the various nonprofits and social services organizations participating.
‘Ahead of the curve’
Tom Leach, the Columbus field office director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, praised Johnson and his staff during the event.
“What a great day to celebrate the ROC. I can say, ‘you rock,’” Leach said. “Once again, you’re ahead of the curve, and there are public housing authorities across the nation who are thinking, ‘What can we do to promote self-sufficiency for our residents?’”
HUD serves 25,000 families in the Cincinnati and Hamilton County area, he said.
The ROC locations at Findlater Gardens and Winton Terrace hope to reach all of the 1,200 households and impact the lives of the thousands of men, women and children who live there, Johnson said.
“This is really about helping each other,” he said. “I’m very proud of the residents that came out in every meeting and participated in the whole process.”
Johnson said local organizations involved will include: Hamilton County Job & Family Services; Beech Acres Parenting Center; Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency; Cradle Cincinnati; Dress for Success; Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati; the Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Advisory Board, or J-RAB; New Horizons Computer Learning Center; the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County; and Women Helping Women, among others.
Findlater Gardens resident Connie Benton said she is grateful that Johnson and his staff listened to what she and her neighbors wanted at the ROC locations, particularly when it comes to treatment for trauma.
“Unfortunately, we always have media here for all the bad things,” she said. “And those are the things people need trauma care for.”
Still, Benton stressed that both Findlater Gardens and Winton Terrace are communities filled with people who want to build better lives for themselves and their families.
“There’s a handful of bad people doing bad things, but it’s a good community with good people,” said Benton, the former president of Findlater Gardens Resident Council. “I think the fact that people will have something centralized that they can go to instead of worrying about how they’re going to get there or who’s going to watch their kids while they, you know, go somewhere, it’s going to make people a little happier, and maybe it will make the neighborhood a little happier.”
Collins said she’s confident the ROC can have an impact.
Back when she was president of the Winton Terrace resident council, Collins kept loads of up-to-date information about resources to help families at the Winton Terrace Community Center and went door-to-door to spread the word.
“You got to meet people where they’re at. Because we’re dealing with a community full of younger moms, we’ve got to go door-to-door,” she said. “I really want to see it work. And I know it will. They’ve just got to keep going and don’t stop.”
More information about the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is available online.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.