The Chester Housing Authority (CHA) was formally recognized by the Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies (PAHRA) for its “Building Community” online video series. The housing authority won the association’s top award – the Bellamy – in the redevelopment/community development category for applying innovative technologies and leadership in response to COVID-19.
CHA launched the online information series Building Community in April 2020 to rapidly respond to the social isolation impacts of the novel coronavirus. Faced with an unfamiliar landscape of new health recommendations, limited in-person contact and widespread community confusion, CHA organized an effective mode to communicate its messages to residents, business partners and the community at large. Building Community was the answer.
“At CHA, we strive to be engaged and in tune with our residents’ needs that extend beyond affordable housing,” said Chester Housing Authority Executive Director Steven Fischer. “When the pandemic first struck, we knew we needed to establish a substitute for our in-person residential development programs – and fast. Thanks to our dedicated staff, strong technological infrastructure and digital savviness, we’ve been able to keep serving our residents through productive programming even during times of extended social isolation.”
Using the ZOOM platform, Fischer and Project Coordinator Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter frame conversations, bring in guests and host a range of engaging forums focused on everything from health to fatherhood to voting and social justice. After only six months in production, the video series received the Special Districts 2020 Technology Innovation Award from AT&T and Government Technology magazine in December 2020. Now, the agency is receiving top nods from the preeminent association for housing and community agencies across Commonwealth.
“Whether we’re in a normal setting or a not-so-normal setting, the CHA is always looking for ways to serve families, friends and allies with as much professionalism and efficiency as possible.” said Slaughter. “Even without the urgency of the ongoing pandemic, we are always motivated by raising the bar as high as possible. Building Community is still in its infancy, and we’ve got great ideas in the queue.”
In the competitive application process, CHA had to outline the goals, innovative techniques, feasibility, resources and intergovernmental cooperation, among other areas. It earned top marks across the board.
What started out as a quick response to a rapidly changing world has become a staple in the everyday CHA way of doing business, and the agency continues to be recognized for it.