Morgna City Housing Authority director shares vision
MORGAN CITY, La. — Dozens of Brownell Homes residents turned out to hear interim executive director Clarence Robinson share his vision of what residents and housing authority management can do together as a team at a Thursday afternoon meeting at the housing project.
A five-minute video presentation demonstrated the importance of public housing in meeting the American ideal that everyone deserves safe, decent housing; that public housing protects the vulnerable such as the elderly, children and disabled.
Robinson emphasized tenants are people from all walks of life. Many, given the opportunity, leave public housing. In any case, they have the power to influence their surrounding and environment if they take pride in their selves and their homes, he said.
“This is what God has called me to do,” Robinson said. “But it will take you, all of us collectively, to make that happen.”
He acknowledged three of the more than 40 residents in attendance as examples for the way they keep their yards and homes clean and well maintained.
Gail Renthrop, one of those he praised, said after the meeting that she viewed her unit as her “condo” and she took pride in her home on the inside as well as the outside. She goes as far as to mow neighbors’ yards, sometimes five at a time, to keep her surroundings looking nice as well as to be neighborly.
“It is where I live. Of course I am going to keep it up,” Renthrop said.
Robinson said that it was that sort of can-do, self-sufficient attitude that was critical to improving the sight of the project as well as its reputation.
“We don’t need HUD officials coming here from Ft. Worth and take over,” Robinson said. He showed pictures of houses with untidy yards, stacks of beer cans in plastic bags near the door and asked if those kind of things were the fault of the housing authority or the resident.
Several in the audience chimed in with him as he said it was the fault of both.
“But you know what? This is going to stop, I promise you,” Robinson said.
Morgan City Police Chief Travis Crouch promised his officers would be taking an active interest in what the residents need.
“This is not a black or white issue,” he said to the racially mixed group of tenants. “I have an open door policy. If you need anything just call me.”
Crouch said he appointed Capt. Mark Griffin Jr. to be the liaison between the housing authority and its residents and the police department. Crouch said he is striving to make the residents aware that his officers are their friends, not their enemies.
Robinson said he received a commitment from the police chief as well as the mayor that the city’s resources would be utilized to serve the housing authority residents.
Mayor Frank Grizzaffi confirmed that he had given Robinson that commitment.
“The housing authority is not a city matter, but these are citizens of the city and they deserve the same treatment as everybody else,” Grizzaffi said.
Grizzaffi said the city has 250 new trash cans along with spare parts and he has instructed city workers to replace or repair dilapidated cans as they see them.
Robinson then asked those in attendance if they were committed to making a difference and improving their neighborhood, to which he received a chorus of affirmative answers.
Ruby Bergeron said she has lived at Brownell Homes since June. “I view where I stay to be a blessing and I appreciate it and will take care of my house and yard,” she said.
Robinson expressed appreciation at the turnout of residents — young and old, black and white — and said he expected there might be others not as committed to the vision of shared responsibility.
Melinda Sawyer, who said she has lived at Brownell Homes for two years, said, “Everybody needs to pull together and get along with our neighbors. But some people just don’t care.”
Robinson said, “I told my staff when I got here that if they were not committed to this then they need to leave.” He said he expects the same from residents.
Four of the five board commissioners were in attendance at the hour-long meeting. Commission chairman Victory Ho said Robinson is the best man in the state for the job at the housing authority.
“We are lucky to have Clarence,” Ho said. “I believe in him. ... Things will get better.”
After the meeting, Ho said that he talked to officials from the Office of Inspector General on Wednesday and they assured him the investigation of issues over the past year at the housing authority is continuing forward.
“Until they complete their investigation, we cannot recoup money that was used for excessive bonuses,” Ho said.
Morgan City councilmen Ron Bias, Tim Hymel and Louis Tamporello Jr., along with parish councilman Tim Tregle, attended the meeting.