Some public housing residents and property staff have more in common than living and working in the same location.
“I lived in public housing. And like so many of our residents, I am a single parent too,” said Alishia Marshall, property manager at J. Henry Hale Apartments.
Marshall moved into Vine Hill Apartments with her infant son in 2000. At the time, she was working full-time as a Kroger accountant and studying criminal justice, psychology and accounting at Tennessee State University.
“I was a go getter,” she said.
Marshall enrolled in Christian Community Services Inc.’s Mentoring Towards Independence program. Housed in the Vine Hill Community Center, CCSI empowers low-income families to reduce their dependence on government subsidies through weekly financial courses on asset management and budgeting, a $2 to $1 match savings program of up to $5,000 and one-on-one mentorships. While parents study, CCSI staff provide their children with homework tutoring, career exploration workshops and a course on basic money management as well as feed them dinner.
As she balanced her family, studies and job, Marshall was unable to keep up with the program’s demands and was released from it for missing too many classes.
“Defeat was not an option for Alishia,” said Social Services Coordinator Katie Yancey, who counsels residents and connects them to supportive services. “During our conversations I could see her find the motivation to overcome obstacles. She was determined and driven.”
Re-enrolling in CCSI, Marshall began contributing to the match savings program and considering mortgage interest rates. She completed the Mentoring Towards Independence program, earned two bachelor’s degrees and purchased a home in 2006 in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Not forgetting the people who aided her journey toward self-sufficiency, Marshall returned to Vine Hill to serve on CCSI’s board of directors and its finance committee for six years.
“Because of her experience in the Mentoring Towards Independence Program, Alishia was able to bring a unique perspective to our board meetings to assist us in how we connect with new students through ways they can relate,” said CCSI Executive Director Belita Howard. “Over the years, she has continued to send MDHA residents to our office for mentoring and budgeting help. It is rewarding to see her success and have her continuous support.”
Marshall also returned to the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in 2007 as Cumberland View’s property manager. While at the North Nashville property, she hosted parent-teacher meetings in the community room beside her office and was often asked to visit schools to talk to problem children. Today she manages 188 public housing units, 40 market rate units and a community garden at J. Henry Hale.
“When Alishia came to Vine Hill as a resident, she was a young lady who was driven, focused, goal oriented, and we developed a plan for her to become self-sufficient. The result is what we see today,” said Historic Preston Taylor Apartments Senior Leasing Assistance Delores Hockett, who worked as a social service coordinator when Marshall moved into Vine Hill. “She left MDHA when she became a homeowner, but she came back to us to help other residents. I am happy for Alishia and enjoy working with her.”
Marshall’s transition from a public housing resident to a property manager is not only inspiring but also can be duplicated, MDHA staff said.
“She is a good example of how MDHA and its partner organizations work to better residents. When residents work closely with social services staff and management, we help them achieve their goals,” Hockett said.
Marshall’s advice to her residents is simple as she offers them a helping hand.
“Set a goal, and don’t let anything stop you. Whatever you want to do, the sky is the limit,” she said.
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