| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Housing Authority (SHA) presented a report card to indicate the status of the organization at a community breakfast on Nov. 20.
District Attorney Anthony Gulluni served as emcee and noted how the organization has changed since 10 to 15 years ago when it was “infected with corruption.”
Today “it is such an important part of the community,” Gulluni added. He explained it provides not just housing, but education for its residents.
Judge William Abrashkin, the executive director of the organization since 2008, said while reforms were underway when he came aboard, they have since “picked up steam.”
The SHA is the largest residential landlord in the city and is the second largest such organization in the state, Abrashkin said. It operates 5,500 units of housing in the city, of which it owns 2,700 units. The majority of the people its serves are the elderly and disabled, although there are families as well.
About 10 percent of the city’s population lives in housing maintained by the SHA, Abrashkin added.
The SHA has a $35 million budget and employs 145 people, making it a prominent economic engine in the community.
He acknowledged that people who live in SHA housing “tend to get a bad rap,” but added, “There’s the myth and there’s the reality.”
Negative stereotypes don’t describe the majority of SHA residents, he noted.
The goal of the organization is to provide housing that is safe, secure and “opened up opportunities,” he sad.
The SHA has its own security officers and works with the Springfield Police, the State Police and the District Attorney’s Office.
“There is no question serious crime on our developments is way down from the bad old days,” Abrashkin said.
The SHA offers a number of residential services and Abrashkin said. “We have long waiting lists for all of our programs.”
The organization offers classes for completion of the GED, English as second language, financial concerns, computer literacy, career planning and nutrition training. There are programs designed for seniors and those for children and young adults.
The SHA works in conjunction with the staff of the Boland and Dorman elementary schools with its Talk/Read/Succeed early literacy program, which serves students at its Sullivan and Robinson Garden apartment complexes.
Abrashkin said the success of the programs relies on relationships the SHA has with other organizations.
“Nobody can do any of this work in isolation, and collaboration is the name of the game,” Abrashkin said.
He noted the SHA has a home ownership program in which people who quality for Section 8 housing vouchers buy a home and receive assistance in paying the mortgage.
Abrashkin also noted the SHA is working with DevelopSpringfield on several projects to “bring back some distress properties.”