It has been a little over a year since I joined the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers (“MHACY”) as its new President and CEO. It was a baptism by fire. MHACY was in full pandemic management mode. It has been a tough year because we have all suffered losses due to COVID. Despite our losses, I prefer to focus on what people call the COVID silver linings.
MHACY management started investing heavily in technology. We started signing residents up for RentCafe which allowed our tenants to pay their rent remotely and receive notifications about food deliveries and PPE deliveries. We transitioned staff from our central office to their home offices through technology and flexible hours. We ramped up our presence on social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to send out messages, notifications and provide programing and information on the latest COVID news. Since we created our social media channels in 2020 and have had growth of over of 1.1k followers across all platforms with 749 Facebook fans and 253,588 impressions and 49 Twitter fans with 39,982 impressions and more than 800 engagements.
MHACY upgraded our website. For the first time in our history, we uploaded all the documents in English and in Spanish a prospective tenant needs to fill out as part of their application process. We created video tours of our apartments so that prospective tenants could virtually visit their potential new homes.
MHACY staff worked around the clock to provide services to our tenant/clients where they live. We sanitized common areas. We delivered food in collaboration with the Yonkers Office for the Aging and many other generous partners. We delivered PPE provided by the City of Yonkers Office of Emergency Management and New York State. We set up mailboxes at every site for residents to drop off their paperwork if they wanted to file their certifications and recertifications in a paper format.
MHACY consultants did thousands of wellness checks by calling every single tenant multiple times. We asked each tenant if they needed food, medical assistance, or anything else we had not or could not think of on our own. Our Resident Coordinators also trained residents on tablets provided through the ConnectHome initiative which allowed our residents to stay connected to news, loved ones and telemedicine providers. When the tablets did not provide a robust enough platform for distance learning, we worked with the Yonkers Board of Education to provide laptops and pay tutors to help our students.
We helped our residents celebrate the holidays. For Halloween, the staff packed 800 bags of Halloween candy for kids. On Thanksgiving with the help of Peter Kelly of X20 Xaviars on the Hudson we were able to provide more than 300 specially prepared meals to our seniors and did it again at Christmas when we also gave away gaming consuls. For Valentine’s Day we delivered baskets from Stew Leonard’s and on Earth Day we gave away reusable totes.
In February we hosted a vaccination clinic at Nodine Community Center, working in collaboration with Sun River Health, New York State, Westchester County, and the City of Yonkers to bus our seniors to the site. We are still working with the City Office of the Aging to bring vaccinations to homebound seniors.
I will not lie and say, “there were no tough days.” I lost one of my best friends and my uncle to COVID. I had COVID myself. Many of our staff and residents had COVID. But recently, I learned the word Ubuntu. It means I am, because you are. Nothing has ever seemed more real to me than that concept in the wake of the COVID pandemic. And that realization is just another COVID silver lining.