A CELEBRATION OF THE M-POWERHOUSE COMMUNITY HAVEN OF MCKEES ROCKS, OCT. 28, AT HAYS MANOR.
New program for Black women to be implemented in spring
The spotlight is on Hays Manor in McKees Rocks, and for all the right reasons.
The 138-unit housing complex run by the Allegheny County Housing Authority recently became the focus of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods grant program. HUD awarded the ACHA with a $450,000 grant to begin plans to revitalize Hays Manor, jumpstart community improvements, and expand opportunities for its residents.
Mix that with the Oct. 28 unveiling of the “M-PowerHouse Community Haven of McKees Rocks,” to be housed inside the Hays Manor Community Center which will provide a litany of services to Hays Manor residents, and there’s smiles going all around, from the residents to the administrators.
“This is something that really brings a good feeling for (Hays Manor) families, mental healing, and I would say that they get physical and spiritual benefits of a highly positive manner for them,” said Dr. Bev Moore, deputy executive director of the Allegheny County Housing Authority, in an interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier, Dec. 8.
BEV MOORE, right, deputy executive director of the Allegheny County Housing Authority, with an attendee at the Oct. 28 event to promote the new “M-PowerHouse Community Haven.”
The grant will allow the housing authority to begin plans for a complete demolition and rebuilding of Hays Manor. Over the next few months, the ACHA will be getting input from Hays Manor residents, local elected officials, developers, etc., as to how to fully revamp Hays Manor and the community around it. Frank Aggazio, executive director of the ACHA, told the Courier that while HUD allows for ACHA’s plan to be submitted within two years, the plan for Hays Manor and McKees Rocks will be submitted far before Nov. 2023. That plan, Aggazio said, will definitely include tearing down each of the three-story-style apartment buildings that currently comprise Hays Manor, and replacing them with at least 138 townhome-like structures, where each resident would have their own entry from the outside. Some of the new structures may be built at a site different from the current Hays Manor site. The existing Hays Manor complex was constructed in 1950.
“Hays Manor is in need of a little more tender-loving care, so to speak,” Aggazio told the Courier in an exclusive interview, Dec. 13. “I’m a proponent that three-story walkups aren’t necessarily the best use of housing for families…it can be very crowded, sometimes the hallways are used as gathering spots for people who don’t live there…if you have your own house or townhouse front entry and back entry, that’s yours, you kind of take ownership in that.”
Aggazio said the plan submitted would be reviewed by HUD for its competitive “Implementation Grant,” which could provide up to $50 million in funding for the project.
“If we get the implementation grant, this will be very big for the community,” Aggazio said.
Competition was fierce for the HUD Choice Neighborhood grants. There were 32 applicants this year, and with a lot of “prayer,” in the words of Dr. Moore, ACHA was chosen as one of just eight grant recipients. Other grants were awarded to housing authorities in Annapolis, Md., Augusta, Ga., Brownsville, Tex., Jackson, Mich., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Va.
The Choice Neighborhoods initiative has been in existence for 10 years, aiming to provide funds that revitalize distressed HUD-assisted housing communities and address challenges in its surrounding neighborhood.
“The competitiveness is so fierce for those (grants),” Dr. Moore told the Courier. “We just took a chance.”
“We were very excited to get it, to say the least,” added Aggazio.
TERRY SMITH, PRESIDENT OF M-POWERHOUSE
And beginning in January 2022, Terry Smith, president of M-PowerHouse, is bringing all of his community resources to the Hays Manor Community Center, including specialists for everything from violence prevention to time management, animals and learning services for children, and healthy eating and cooking classes. He’s also starting a pilot program that will provide 30 African American women who are residents of Hays Manor with the opportunity to become a certified drone pilot, or a career in cryptocurrency, robotics, nursing or dietary.
M-PowerHouse is a local organization dedicated to connecting underserved youth to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) careers and other educational opportunities. But Smith was troubled by the 2019 City of Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commission report which revealed that Pittsburgh, overall, is the worst place for Black women to live. Smith told the Courier he presented to Dr. Moore at the ACHA a four-tier plan to help put Pittsburgh’s Black women in a more advantageous position. She was in favor of the pilot program, and secured the Hays Manor Community Center as a headquarters of sorts for Smith’s program to be housed.
“A lot of women have PTSD as African Americans in lower-income communities,” Smith told the Courier in an exclusive interview, Dec. 7. “We know someone who’s been killed…social ills from opioids…we’re no different from Iran or North Korea or any of these other countries that go through PTSD, but no one has taken the time to examine what African Americans go through at-large.”
ATTENDEES AT THE OCT. 28 EVENT AT HAYS MANOR
The “M-PowerHouse Community Haven of McKees Rocks” will be open inside the Hays Manor Community Center on select afternoons from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., as there will be COVID testing and diabetes screenings, cooking classes from local chef Claudy Pierre, dance classes, classes on food table etiquette from Pittsburgh Fogo de Chao restaurant sales manager Gary White, and a number of specialists helping residents with violence prevention, drug and alcoholism, time management and other soft and life skills.
The model pilot program specifically for African American adult women is set to begin in the spring, Smith said. Applications will be taken from Hays Manor female residents, and 30 will be selected to enter what’s being called the “NOW Program” (Nurturing Opportunities for Workforce). The holistic approach to the program involves women first going through the etiquette program, where women will tidy up their soft skills and life skills, and learn fiscal responsibility from representatives with Key Bank and S&T Bank. The women would next take a basic coding course. Coding is otherwise known as computer programming, and learning how to write code gives you the ability to make computers “behave” in a desired manner. Coding is vitally important in today’s workforce.
“Coding is actually the thing that’s taking away the ‘essential worker’ jobs,” Smith told the Courier.
ATTENDEES AT THE OCT. 28 EVENT AT HAYS MANOR
The final step in the program for the women would be their certification as possibly a drone operator, or in cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, robotics, nursing or dietary.
“We’re trying to give them all the necessary tools, because the average salaries for drone operators and careers in cryptocurrency can make $100,000-plus (per year),” Smith said. “This is the type of money that transforms lives.”
Smith said it’s important that the program teaches women financial responsibility, because when women start making large salaries, they will have a better understanding of how to handle money, including savings and retirement accounts, investing, etc.
“This builds self-esteem and pride, and it’s not just about inspiring, but aspiring to be that next person who will make this world a better place,” Smith told the Courier. “Bottom line is, creating a better future for the next generation, and it all starts with the parents.”