East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority (EBRPHA) Chairperson Dianna Payton was named 2022 Commissioner of the Year by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) at the organization’s annual convention in San Diego.
Payton has taken the agency through challenging times and, according to NAHRO, was selected based on her “advocating and developing financial, political and community support to ensure the continuation and expansion of housing and community development agency and its programs.”
EBRPHA Chief Executive Officer, J. Wesley Daniels, Jr., praised Payton for “steadfast guidance and laser vision as the agency reshaped and re-imagined its services by focusing on accountability, new efficiencies, and innovative programming for residents, including access to transportation, education, health and wellness, and economic opportunities.”
Payton has served on the EBRPHA board of commissioners since 2015 and as its chair since 2017. She currently serves as President and CEO of the YWCA Greater Baton Rouge.
EBRPHA Captures Five NAHRO Merit Awards for Resident Services and Public Relations
In addition, EBRPHA was recognized by NAHRO with five Merit Awards for innovative services to residents and for a comprehensive communications program.
EBRPHA received four Merit Awards for innovative initiatives for residents and families. The four Merit Awards in the Community Category were “Tech Tools Initiative,” “Bell Ringers,” “Beds for Kids and Babies,” and “Harmony Gardens for Wellness.”
“Tech Tools Initiative” took EBRPHA staff door-to-door to identify school-age children and families in need of internet access or higher bandwidth and technology tools when schools were often closed because of the Covid pandemic. Working hand in hand with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, EBRPHA distributed 680 kits, each of which contained a Chromebook, headphones, mouse pad, mouse, and Wi-Fi hot spot.
The “Bell Ringers” initiative recognizes the joyous sound of a bell, signifying an affordable housing residents’ move to market-rate housing or even to homeownership. The sound of bells connotes achievement, sacrifice, and determination to enhance one’s quality of life for housing residents. EBRPHA began the Bell Ringers Program to provide recognition to residents and to encourage others toward self-sufficiency and wealth building.
“Beds for Kids and Babies” highlighted an inspiring initiative. When EBRPHA learned that children were sleeping on pallets and babies were sleeping in their parent's beds, they made a commitment. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can be caused by babies sleeping in unsafe quarters. Children need sleep for ongoing educational development and health. EBRPHA raised over $25,000 in community funds and installed 50 new beds and bedding and 17 safe cribs for families in its communities.
“Harmony Gardens for Wellness” is an initiative designed to combat food insecurity, particularly in North Baton Rouge and in the inner city. EBRPHA partnered with Baton Roots and installed 84 raised and ground level vegetable garden beds at 11 communities helping families address food insecurity, education, and comradery. The gardens’ yields are free to families and provide hands-on training in home gardening and nutrition knowledge while enhancing overall well-being, and community engagement. Each community also received a “Freegerator” for enhanced storage provided by a grant from HealthyBlue an affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.
“Telling the Affordable Housing Story” describes EBRPHA’s internal and external communications program designed to dispel the age-old perception of public housing as a drain on the economy and home of underachievers to refocus and reshape the agency as innovative, inspiring, and resolute. EBRPHA CEO J. Wesley Daniels, Jr., and its Board of Commissioners led the way to redirect the image of affordable housing through a strong partnership with area media, stakeholders, and the rest of the community.