PHTP particpants at a recent training in Ludlow.
“Before the (PHTP) training, I didn’t understand the way things work… The training is serious. I like to say it’s like an oracle, it gives answers.”
Those were the words of Nicole Beckles, a resident leader and peer trainer in the Public Housing Training Program. Nicole gave a moving testimonial of her participation in the program at the Mel King Institute’s 10th Anniversary Breakfast in June.
“Changes to public housing don’t affect where other people lay their heads at night, not the Housing Authority staff, or the legislators, the changes affect public housing residents, where we live every day and raise our kids. This is why this program of training residents to understand the process and giving and getting involved is so important. This is why I’m involved,” she continued.
Since its first training in 2017, the Public Housing Training Program (PHTP) has trained more than 200 residents across the Commonwealth, arming them with the knowledge they need to fully participate in the oversight of their housing developments. A recent evaluation report of the program showed that it is building resident leadership skills and knowledge in a variety of areas such as budgets, tenants’ rights, conflict resolution, community building, etc.
The Mel King Institute for Community Building launched the Public Housing Tenant Training Program in 2016 with the purpose of increasing the voice of residents as stakeholders in decision-making in public housing management and administration. Trainings are all conducted by Sarah Byrnes, Manager of the MKI Public Housing Training Program, along with co-trainers and residents.
Director of the Mel King Institute, Shirronda Almeida said, “We are proud to have this effort under the MKI umbrella. The program reaches residents in public housing across the state and gives them the tools necessary to be leaders within their housing authority. When we hear from these residents, we learn about the powerful impact the training and networking opportunities is having in their lives, and communities.”
Though the Mel King Institute is based in Boston, trainings are conducted across Massachusetts. Recently, Sarah drove out to Western MA for a week of trainings. The week started in Great Barrington with a learning session with two resident board members, followed by two days of resident leader training, and concluded with a resident board member training in Ludlow.
The trainings in Great Barrington were attended by residents of the community who are working to address challenges around maintenance and other issues. Great Barrington residents take great pride in the physical landscape and beauty of the town, and many of them do their own gardening and landscaping. Peer Trainer Mildred Valentin Torres helped run the training, sharing her lessons of working with tenant groups in Chelsea.
Participants had the chance to sharpen their skills in team building, outreach, conflict resolution and running meetings, as well as the opportunity to learn about state regulations and tenant protections, and how to build a strong tenant organization.
In Ludlow, residents from five housing authorities in the area, including Ludlow itself, participated in the resident board member training. Jessica Quinonez, the Resident Board Member in Springfield, helped out as a Peer Trainer.
Resident board members enjoy meeting each other and being able to share and learn from each other’s experiences and challenges. In addition to networking, participants of this training had the opportunity to learn about budgets, capital plans, and the overall role of the board member.
Moving forward, the residents and resident board members who participated in these trainings will receive continued support from our partner, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants. They will also be invited to the ongoing learning community supported by the Public Housing Training Program, which provides regular online meet ups and scholarships to other Mel King Institute trainings.
To learn more about the Public Housing Training Program, please contact Program Manager, Sarah Byrnes at firstname.lastname@example.org