A Word From Our Interim Executive Director

In my last post, I shared a little about our Community Connections Team and how they embody BHA’s mission in action. That got me thinking about another team that has a meaningful impact on the residents we serve. I’d like to introduce you to our Resident Liaison team ("RL" for short). What you may not know is that BHA has a department called CMS that supports affordable multifamily housing in Utah, Nebraska, and the entire state of Washington on behalf of the federal government. Through this work, we support over 28,000 families and bring much needed financial support for housing and services back into our Bremerton community. The RL team is a one-stop-shop where any one of those 28,000 families can turn to if they have a concern. That’s a very tall task day-in/day out and our RLs are up to it. This post is written as a big thank you to all our current and former RLs, as well as anyone who has monitored the RL phone line, for their effort, passion and compassion. Here are the RL’s who helped me with this article:

Our current RLs - Heather Ensor and Melissa Balok (shown in picture below).

Our current backup RL - Christine Leuenberger

All the RLs and their backups who currently work in other roles at the organization – Lori Reisinger, Katie Sharp, Karisha Stanley, Karen Ventrice, Wendy McNeal, Jessica Moyer, Natasha Rankin, Christina Dagsaan, and Stefanie Jergeson.

Heather Melissa landscape cropped
The first thing I’d like to share with you comes from one of our current RL’s, Heather Ensor. I had asked everyone listed above what comes to mind when they think of the RL position. For Heather, the first thing she mentioned speaks to me about the strong personal connection between her work and our mission:

 "The most rewarding aspect of the RL position is facilitating solutions for the families. Usually, when a family member calls, there is some sort of a crisis happening. Being the person, they call when they need help and being able to deliver a solution to the problem is gratifying."

When asked "what have you learned from your time in the RL role?", three themes emerged from everyone’s responses. I’d like to share their thoughts in their own words:

Theme 1: Shaping the person I have become. I imagine this statement might resonate with many of you who are in roles that directly support people in need, where you find you get just as much out of that work as the people you are helping.

  • “The RL role could be challenging, but I am grateful for my time as an RL as it shaped me into a well-rounded and more compassionate individual."

  • "It required me to be both compassionate and emotionally strong."

  • "It really helped me develop my customer service skills (being able to listen, asking the right questions, exercising patience) versus "flexing" my expertise and knowledge."

  • "I gained self-confidence. There are so many variables required to perform the position such as time management, customer service, phone etiquette, and, most importantly, expertise in [federal compliance] requirements. When I first started, some of these did not come naturally, especially not all at once. The only way to get better was to keep at it."

  • "You become a master at adapting and time management. You can expect every day to come with interruptions. It takes a lot of patience and concentration to be able to take calls while in the middle of formulating responses to [property owners and management staff]."

  • "My business writing improved.  It is so important to communicate clearly.  I was reminded that many [property owners and management staff] and residents read my correspondences, and every single person needs to be able to understand what I am conveying in my emails/letters."

  • "It taught me that going the extra mile is always appreciated.  Just because no one sees you, doesn’t mean the hard work goes unnoticed."

Theme 2: Building a solid foundation in the complexity of HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) affordable housing regulations. The service we perform for families living in HUD’s subsidized multifamily housing sits within a very complex web of rules and requirements, at the city/county/state/federal levels. Beyond their ability to be compassionate, our RLs are masters of these regulations.
  • "Every call on the Resident Liaison line is like a pop-quiz in Compliance. You never know what subject might come up, and you need to be prepared to provide the answer or know how to find the answer. "

  • "The RL position is the first step to understanding HUD’s Section 8 Multifamily Housing requirements. You become familiar with the HUD 4350.3 Occupancy manual and how it relates to owners and residents. That builds an appreciation for the items reviewed by our team during [audit] inspections."

  • "The RL position taught me how important it is to research issues and find solutions when I can.  With so many guidebooks and housing notices, RL taught me to get my nose in those books and notices and research various queries."

  • "Every day I was researching items on HUD.gov or in 4350.3 HUD Handbook. Continuously reading various housing notices."

  • "It helped me learn the ins and outs of leases, house rules, and various policies."

  • "I learned how rents are calculated and various deductions apply."

  • "It increased my knowledge with various landlord tenant laws."

  • "I found myself reviewing/familiarizing myself with Washington, Utah, Nebraska, and Hawaii landlord tenant laws to further assist tenants."

  • "My time as a Resident Liaison was like a great boot camp. It laid a great foundation of multifamily housing program knowledge."

  • “Serving as the Resident Liaison is a sure-fire way to learn the details of the 4350.3 very quickly, and to learn how the HUD regulations translate to real-life for families and [property owners and management staff]. While answering the Resident Liaison line, I became fairly confident in my ability to understand and explain HUD regulations for Project Based Section 8."

Theme 3: Seeing the world through the lens of the families we serve. Daily contact with the family members we serve has built an appreciation for what life is like for those living in HUD’s multifamily housing. And through our RLs, our entire agency expands its capacity and desire to serve them better.

  • "Working as a RL is a direct line to the people that HUD serves. The RL position is an important factor in understanding the world of our residents versus our [property owners and management staff]."

  • "People just want someone to listen to their concerns – it’s important to remember to listen and acknowledge people’s feelings."

  • "Most of the residents I spoke to take pride in where they live."

  • "Job loss has a lasting impact when living paycheck to paycheck."

  • "So many of the residents are on a fixed income."

  • "Residents want to work but are afraid of losing housing. Just because your income increases, does not mean you can suddenly afford an increased rent."

  • "Their frustrations are not with me, but with the situation, I had to remember to be patient."

  • "A lot of people do not understand the ins and outs of the HUD program they are involved in."

In closing, I’d like to pick up on that last quote about participants not understanding the ins and outs of their HUD program. Our Resident Liaisons offer a guiding hand in helping families navigate what often feels like a daunting path to find a resolution. Along that journey, the RL’s exercise patience, compassion, and attention to detail. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that our RL’s are highly sought after from other departments at CMS and from other organizations in the HUD multi-family world. We’re lucky to have them and so are the families they serve. Tim mask png

Click here for BHA Vision, Mission and Statement of Values.


Bremerton Housing Authority
600 Park Avenue
Bremerton, WA  98337

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