For Elyse Poy, Karen Bousquet, Jaclyn Beltrami, and Darren Parmer, the daily tasks and challenges of the housing department seem endless. Accompanied by following up with clients, case management, prioritizing a long list of projects, and helping homeowners, their jobs are busy and very rewarding.
Externally, their individual jobs are perceived as ones that influence the ever changing climate in Lancaster City. Community members often respect the work being done and are thankful after a project has been completed. Darren Parmer, a McCaskey High School graduate, says, “when you are working in my job, you not only represent the city, you also represent the people in that city.” He also considers others in his profession to be approachable when city residents need their assistance.
Internally, the duties and perceptions of their particular jobs have certainly evolved. With growing awareness of lead hazards (like lead in paint) in the city of Lancaster, there tends to be a better understanding of their work and an increase of importance as well.
This increase of awareness and sense of urgency was, in part, due to the assistance of Mayor Sorace and her administration in City Hall. This administration worked to fully recognize and support the work being done by Poy, Bousquet, Beltrami, and Parmer. Mayor Sorace also pushed the idea of going for the national maximum grant provided by HUD. Years and years of hard work and lead research finally paid off when the City of Lancaster was awarded this grant for lead hazards in homes. Out of seven other cities, Lancaster City was the smallest city to be awarded with this grant.
Like all things in life, challenges arose when trying to get this grant from HUD. It was important to have HUD believe in the lead team in the City of Lancaster and its ability to build contractor capacity, to create an inventory of homeowners at risk of lead hazards, and to provide all the needed information to the grant writer. Most of the time, this information was needed in a short time window. In the end, this grant is going to work to transform houses in Lancaster City, making them safer, cleaner, and more energy efficient.
Not only does lead remediation add value to a property, it also increases the quality of life for the occupants of that property. Through a simple paperwork process, one can apply for forgiven loans to combat possible lead hazards in their home. Some requirements for qualifying are having property insurance, a child under 6 must spend time at the home, and the unit must have been built before 1978. As more property owners apply for lead remediation, public education on lead poisoning and awareness of the HUD grant increases as well. All of this information and more can be found by Google searching Lancaster City PA Lead Hazard Control Program on the internet.
On a personal level, each person I interviewed had a different aspect, or favorite moment, from their jobs that they liked the most. For Elyse Poy and Jaclyn Beltrami, it was the overall mission of helping homeowners in Lancaster and educating them on the various house hazards. They also like that when all options seem negative for a homeowner, they can help to turn these options into positive moments of house improvement. For Karen Bousquet, it is the problem solving aspect of her job and the impact she is making by serving the staff that serves the residents of Lancaster City. Finally, for Darren Parmer, it is making connections with residents, making home dreams come true, and seeing how thankful and happy each homeowner is after the remediation takes place. For myself, the work that Elyse Poy, Karen Bousquet, Jaclyn Beltrami, and Darren Parmer are doing help to make people believe in the good that local government can do.