Cindy Burns and Jennifer Ross are often the first faces visitors to Housing Assistance see.
While that has changed during the quarantine, as they have joined their colleagues in working from home, they have remained the initial gateway for clients to access essential housing services.
The pair are Housing Assistance’s intake coordinators. Ross arrived here last August, after a 10-year stint at Family Continuity, a mental health and social services agency where she worked with Burns. Burns eventually followed Ross to Housing Assistance at the end of February, just three weeks before the pandemic turned life on its head.
Since then, the two have screened all calls and emails into Housing Assistance. “We check messages from the main office about every 10 to 15 minutes,” Burns said. “We call the folks back or we’ll email our staff if they have messages from people.”
From their short time at Housing Assistance, the two can clearly see that the volume of calls and emails has risen dramatically. By and large, Burns said, people “seem to need someone to listen to them.
“They are scared,” she continued. “A lot of them work in the restaurant industry and some have already been collecting unemployment in January, February and March and it ran out around the first of April. They were holding their breath trying to get back to work and now their restaurant isn’t reopening and they are trying to reapply for unemployment.”
“People are anxious and they don’t know how to navigate available resources,” Ross said. “They want to know how they’re going to get food and how they’re going to pay for their rent, mortgage or car payment.”
While working remotely has been an adjustment, Ross said, it has also allowed her to take her time in supporting clients. “I don’t feel rushed,” she said. “And I like that there’s no fear of spreading the illness this way.”
The pair expressed their appreciation for how Housing Assistance has navigated this health crisis. “I am very impressed with the level of care they have shown to us as employees and also to our clients,” Ross said.
“They genuinely care about us as employees and then they started the relief fund to help the community with direct and immediate needs,” Burns added. “The folks we’re helping live in this community with us. To know we’re helping them is a great feeling.”