WCRP to use 10K grant for its Tenant Services program

The Wo­men’s Com­munity Re­vital­iz­a­tion Pro­ject will use the funds to provide sup­port­ive ser­vices for its ten­ants, one of whom said the com­munity de­vel­op­ment group is any­thing but a lax land­lord.

The Wo­men’s Com­munity Re­vital­iz­a­tion Pro­ject, a non­profit work­ing to build af­ford­able hous­ing and provide sup­port­ive ser­vices to low-in­come wo­men and their fam­il­ies, has re­ceived a $10,000 from The Cit­izen’s Bank Found­a­tion.

That money, ac­cord­ing to Car­o­lyn Haynes, deputy dir­ect­or of WCRP, will go to­ward WCRP’s Ten­ant Ser­vices Pro­gram. The pro­gram is part of the sup­port­ive ser­vices - like case man­age­ment and coun­sel­ing - WCRP provides to its 238 ten­ant fam­il­ies.

WCRP is loc­ated at 407 Fair­mount Ave. in North­ern Liber­ties, but has built nine hous­ing de­vel­op­ments throughout east­ern north Phil­adelphia, Haynes said.

Through the Ten­ant Ser­vices pro­gram, ten­ants are con­nec­ted to the op­por­tun­it­ies and ser­vices they need, like em­ploy­ment, edu­ca­tion and fin­an­cial ser­vices.

“We have a long stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with all our ten­ants,” Haynes said. “We feel really good that people make pro­gress and im­prove their fin­an­cial and fam­ily life.”

The mon­et­ary boost to WCRP’s ten­ant ser­vices may help bring at­ten­tion to what staff mem­bers and ten­ants alike said they know for sure—that WCRP does much more than simply build places to live.

“Our work is hol­ist­ic,” said Nora Lichtash, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of WCRP dur­ing a phone in­ter­view Ju­ly 13. “It’s not just hous­ing, it’s provid­ing sup­port for people to im­prove their eco­nom­ic situ­ation.”

In the past, WCRP de­vel­op­ment has been met with com­munity back­lash. Star staff mem­bers were present for two sep­ar­ate com­munity meet­ings dur­ing which loc­als ex­pressed con­cern about the de­tails of WCRP pro­pos­als.

At a May 9 meet­ing in Kens­ing­ton, loc­als voted 60-to-21 against a pro­pos­al for the Nitza Tufino town homes. The homes would be de­veloped at 1942 N. Front St., in the space where a de­teri­or­at­ing former bank build­ing now stands. Con­cerns ranged from the avail­ab­il­ity of park­ing to crime in the area.

At that time, Star wrote, “Lichtash in­sists that WCRP is fo­cused on the com­munity’s con­cerns go­ing for­ward. She said the or­gan­iz­a­tion has held com­munity meet­ings to work through is­sues and nail down spe­cif­ics of the pro­ject.”

And in a June 20 meet­ing of the Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work, Lichtash per­son­ally dis­cussed a pro­pos­al to bring 36 homes, and 36 park­ing spots, to a va­cant lot at Au­burn Street and Trenton Av­en­ue, the site of a former car­pet fact­ory.

Star wrote that at that meet­ing, “Neigh­bors wor­ried aloud that the pro­ject…could im­pact the prop­erty val­ues of their homes.”

“We have only built houses where there has been blight,” Lichtash said over the phone. “We only build on va­cant land. There has nev­er been a case where the prop­erty value has not in­creased.”

Lichtash also said that WCRP ten­ants are ex­pec­ted to main­tain their prop­er­ties and be pro­act­ive mem­bers of the com­munity.

“We have eas­ily re­viewed 10 ap­plic­ants for every one house,” she said. “We have our choice of ten­ants, and we choose only the best.”

She said pro­spect­ive ten­ants go through an in­ter­view and screen­ing pro­cess be­fore they are chosen.

“They’re no dif­fer­ent than any­one else in the neigh­bor­hood. Most people want to im­prove their own lives and the lives of their kids. That’s who our ten­ants are,” she said.

Nashanta Robin­son, a WCRP ten­ant since June 2009, is a 32-year-old moth­er of three. She lives in the WCRP-de­veloped Evelyn Sanders com­plex on 9th and In­di­ana streets. She said WCRP has been more than just a land­lord—the or­gan­iz­a­tion has helped her to be­come a com­munity lead­er.

“It’s not like they’re build­ing these houses to get our rent, and we’re just a num­ber,” she said. “They’re build­ing these houses, and they’re build­ing the com­munity.”

Robin­son said she un­der­stands that there might be a mis­con­cep­tion about WCRP ten­ants.

“I think maybe when you say, ‘af­ford­able hous­ing,’ people think, ‘poor people are dirty,’ or ‘poor people are dumb,’” she said. “It’s not like a pro­ject home or even like a Sec­tion 8; WCRP really wants to teach their ten­ants val­ues, so we can give back.”

Robin­son said the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s sup­port­ive ser­vices helped her provide pro­grams and activ­it­ies for oth­er WCRP ten­ants.

“I made it a goal to do pro­grams so the res­id­ents had something to do,” she said.

Robin­son held a “lit­er­acy” party for ten­ants, and ar­ranged for the Eagles Book Mo­bile to pay a vis­it. She said sup­port­ive ser­vices made petty cash avail­able for her to host the party. Now, as Robin­son stud­ies busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, she said WCRP is help­ing to turn her and oth­er ten­ants in­to com­munity lead­ers.

“They saw a lead­er in me be­fore I saw one in my­self,” she said.

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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