Public housing is a vital part of many communities and societies and they form a key part of the social plan which this country has. I wanted to know more about what it is like to manage a public housing scheme and what challenges existed within this field. I spoke with the incredible Martin LaMar, a man who runs a brilliant public housing program here in St.Louis, Missouri, in order to find out more about what life is like for managers like himself and his partner Tom Grefe.

Volunteers

In almost all social housing schemes like this that work in metropolitan areas, much of the operation is managed and carried out by volunteers. As you can well imagine these volunteers can be tough to manage and turnover is very high. These men and women cannot be tied down to contracts and even if they have said that they will stay for a long time, they come and go with regularity. Beyond this Martin and his team must work hard to train these volunteers who carry out all manner of tasks from cutting each blade of grass on the properties to helping individuals with personal challenges. 

Funding

There is a lot of federal funding available for projects like these but obtaining it is not always very straight forward. This can often be a frustrating issue for Martin who is often required to send letter upon letter to board members and politicians, in order to get what they need to stay alive. Public housing does receive lots of financial help but these groups are made to jump through hoops in order to get hold of the money that they need to help out more people.

Legal Issues

You would think that a group who carried out such great work wouldn’t run into too much legal trouble but unfortunately this is something which Martin often gets tied up with. A prime example of this happened recently here in St. Louis, Missouri, whereby a large land developer tried to bid for some land which had been earmarked for public housing. In the end the permission was not granted to this land developer to bid but regardless it still caused Martin and his team a headache for over 6 months as they fought to resolve the issue. Not only is this tough to go through, it also takes time away from what he should be doing which is managing the operation on the whole, rather than getting bogged down in legal admin.  

Any executive or manager of a public housing program should be absolutely commended for the great work that they do, especially in deprived areas such as here in St Louis, Missouri. There will always be challenges but there are changes that need to be made in order to make the lives of these men and women much easier, which will in turn benefit the inhabitants of the houses.

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