Inspiring the Valley

Inspiring the Valley: Positive changes in public housing creates a 'transformative' environment

FRESNO COUNTY, California - Research shows that a child's enviornment, where they live, can have a huge impact on the outcome of their education.

We take a look at how Fresno County's philosophy about public housing is having a positive impact on families.

Public housing for low income residents has traditionally been plain buildings that looked more like insitutions instead of homes, not places for families to live.

Many say that view of public housing in Fresno changed when Preston Prince became CEO of the Fresno Housing Authority.

"We feel like at the housing authority, that housing, quality housing can be transformative for a neighborhood," says Tammy Townsend, deputy executive director at the housing authority.

Colorful buildings, with plenty of green space and a safe place for children to play, she says of the public housing.

Research shows, "quality stable affordable" housing can have a huge impact on the outcomes of a child's education, and it is the housing authority's efforts to improve the lives of children that attracted Townsend to this job.

She says, "It's been such a pleasure to be able to have the opportunity to kind of filter our policies and our procedures and our budget priorities and all the different areas that I'm involved with in the housing authority to filter through the lens of what's good for kids."

Her caring for children is genuine. She may hold an executive position, but she can get on the floor and engage a child at their level.

Townsend worked for Fresno Unified before coming to the housing authority and the agency has a special relationship with the district.

A number of Fresno Unified students live in public housing.

"We have a data sharing agreement so we know how our students are doing in school. we can measure attendance, we can measure their performance on standardized test," Townsend says.

Many of the new or remodel public housing in Fresno has space and programs to support the children's learning, computer labs, a library and a place to do homework.

"The kids do come here everyday afters chool and they look forward to coming here. We do homework help, we do reading we also do computer literacy where the kids has the opportunity to use the computer lab," says Sherry Xiong, who works in the department of resident services.

Working to improve the lives and outcomes for children living in public housing is Townsend's passion. She says seeing that you can have an impact is "addictive."

"I want to feel that I created the circumstance in some way for a better Fresno," Townsend says.

The Fresno Housing Authority serves about 50,000 low income residents.

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