The North Bergen Housing Authority (NBHA) and a Resident Service Coordinator were recently honored with some awards.
The NBHA has been recognized for its commitment to its residents during the pandemic by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), and was presented with the prestigious “Community Impact Award” at the NAHRO National Conference & Exhibition on Thursday, September 22, in San Diego.
“I am very proud that our housing authority is the recipient of this award,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “The pandemic hit our community very hard but thanks to the efforts of the NBHA we took the necessary steps to ensure our residents continued to receive the services they needed. Thank you to NAHRO for this award, as well as a sincere thank you to our NBHA staff for their resolute commitment to their jobs.”
The NBHA serves a largely Latino and minority community. Of the 986 public housing units they reserve 811 units for elderly and or disabled persons. During the pandemic, the transportation services that many tenants rely on were suspended during periods of quarantine.
The NBHA staff recognized a need to get vital household necessities and fresh food products to the elderly, handicapped, and less mobile tenants, so they established partnerships with local warehouse distributors who periodically donate large quantities of sundry and household items for needy persons. The staff was able to find alternatives to provide essential household items and fresh food products to the elderly, disabled, and less mobile tenants.
Looking after seniors and residents who are disabled
“We don’t do this work for recognition, but it is encouraging when it is acknowledged,” said Gerald Sanzari, Executive Director of the NBHA. “I am very excited to send a member of my staff to attend the national conference later this month because it will provide them with a tremendous opportunity to make valuable new contacts, develop relationships, and research new housing products, technologies, and solutions.”
NAHRO was established in 1933 as a membership organization of more than 19,500 housing and community development providers and professionals administering more than three million homes for more than eight million people throughout the United States. It is a leading advocate for affordable housing and strong, viable, and sustainable communities for all Americans.
NAHRO created Awards of Merit to honor their members’ successes and lift up the ways in which they’ve built better workplaces, homes, programs, and communities. While these awards honor the work of NAHRO members nationwide, they also provide a catalog of innovative local solutions from agencies across the country.
Its premier annual event was held in late September for more than 1,000 housing and community development professionals who gathered in San Diego for educational sessions, dynamic speakers, knowledge sharing, networking, and product and service shopping.
Shamira Cruz named Resident Service Coordinator of the Month
In addition to that award, Shamira Cruz, the Residents in Self Sufficiency (ROSS) Grant Coordinator for the NBHA, has been named the Resident Service Coordinator of the Month for September by New England Resident Service Coordinators, Inc. because of her commitment and dedication to the tenants.
Cruz’s colleagues describe her as energetic, outgoing, well-liked, and well-received by her community. Having lived in supportive housing herself in the past, she exemplifies the philosophy of providing the best possible quality of life for tenants without prejudice of any kind.
Cruz promotes this philosophy not just through words, but through her everyday actions while at work. According to the township, she does not believe in “no, it can’t be done,” instead she fights through whatever obstacles arise for tenant’s rights every day and seeks out grants, however small or large, for programs that will benefit them.
“I am so proud of Shamira Cruz. I’ve always appreciated her work ethic and her tireless effort in helping our tenant community, but to see an outstanding organization like NERSC recognize her work is quite satisfying and is another positive reflection on the NBHA,” said Sanzari.
Cruz is bilingual, and since most of the population that she serves only speaks Spanish, she uses her skills to ensure that her tenants are receiving the appropriate state and federal benefits they are entitled to, according to the township. She also ensures that tenants who want to become U.S. citizens are referred to free citizenship classes, including a program that subsidizes the cost of the U.S. citizenship application for income eligible participants.
Serving the local community and its needs
Tenants who want to learn English are now also provided with English as a second language classes in the community rooms at the North Bergen Public Library (NBPL). Cruz also ensures that each education and service provider the township enlists support from gives information in both English and Spanish in order to facilitate learning for the majority of the population.
The NBHA is a recipient of the ROSS Grant from HUD, largely due to the hard work of Cruz and her collaborations with the numerous partner organizations with whom she has cultivated relationships to benefit her community. This includes critical partnerships with local organizations to host seminars throughout the year, geared towards the elderly, the disabled, youth and families, on a variety of health related topics. For example, Cruz brought in Planned Parenthood to provide health info sessions for youth and young adults; and events for seniors to make sure they are thriving and living full independent lives in the community.
Cruz’s department also received acclaim for their development of “The Senior Moment Project” in conjunction with The Act Now Foundation (ANF), a local Alzheimer’s and dementia non-profit organization from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officers in 2017. The project continues to thrive under her direction.
In response to being recognized, Cruz said, “The work I do plays an important part in my life as well as others. It brings great joy to know that others feel comfortable working with me. Assisting others comes easy to me. I enjoy being able to refer residents to programs they need or may not have known about. Working with families and seniors is a passion of mine.”
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