Recovery is defined as, “to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” There might be humorous banter about what ‘normal’ is for PHAs, however, now that the surge of emergency response to COVID-19 has subsided, it’s time for Public Housing Agencies to move forward and begin operating at full strength again.
Just like the rest of society, PHAs have had to adjust and adapt in order to keep moving during the pandemic. HUD wisely provided waivers that allowed us to adapt and make accommodations to serve our communities in this crisis. Essentially, this allowed us to become more malleable in areas where we were previously very stringent in our processes and procedures. Those things which were once strange and new, have now become ‘normal.’ With HUD starting to rescind many of those waivers, PHAs have to reassess and adapt once again.
The affordable housing industry has experienced a surge of growth and expansion that has brought with it a new set of challenges to tackle. On top of all that, there is still a huge amount of backlog of work that built up over the last 2 years.
So, what does that mean for you and what does that look like today?
It’s going to be important that PHA directors take time to focus on the health and well-being of their agencies. Pay attention to how you’re managing setbacks and remember to make decisions that support the repair process. Recovery is hard; but it gives you a chance to rebuild in a positive direction. For some PHAs, it is extremely difficult for us to initiate change, even when we know it’s absolutely necessary. Stepping into this recovery phase with an open mind and new vision gives us an area of opportunity to focus on areas of your agency that need refinement.
Ask yourself and your staff these questions about your PHA…
- Where have you experienced setbacks?
- What areas need more support?
- What can you realistically do?
Once you identify the areas in need of recovery, you need to create a plan for meeting those needs.
A good recovery plan will have 3 distinct stages:
All 3 stages are necessary, we can’t skip any of the three is we want to minimize setbacks and create an environment for our agency to flourish.
Imagine being hospitalized with a significant injury that required specific care and length of time to heal properly. However, you get discharged without any instructions, prescriptions, or a plan of care. Now, what do you think your chances of making a full, healthy, and timely recovery are? Probably not very high, right?
Recovery requires planning and preparedness. You’re much more likely to see success if you have plan to take specific steps and measures.
The preparation stage can include many things, but some of the more effective items to address are:
- Determining the areas of improvement and laying out an action plan to address their challenges
- Setting a specific and practical timeline
- Ensuring you have enough trained staff
- Managing the expectations of your staff so everyone is consistently on the same page
- Having backup plans set in place
Preparation is a key element to a successful recovery.
Something many overlook is that the action stage requires a level of self-awareness, allowing you to release your agency’s old way of doing things in order to embrace new strategies that serve you better. The action stage isn’t just where you get to do everything you decided on in the preparation stage
Did you notice that recovery is not characterized by the ability to do things the same exact way as before? There were many compulsory changes over the last 2 years, but not all of them are negative. In fact, we were pushed to streamline a lot of our processes and utilize some new and creative solutions that work really well.
For example, moving your documents to a digital format and housing forms and info online got introduced to many PHAs for the first time when COVID hit; and as a result, your processes are now more efficient for both you and your participants.
Carry forward these processes that have made your agency more efficient and effective.
Maintenance is SO key as we move into this recovery stage for PHAs. Think about weightwatchers. In one of their weekly meetings, a coach was talking about the maintenance phase of weight loss. She shared how she lost a significant amount of weight but had to learn to adapt to a new lifestyle so that her old patterns didn’t take her back to her old weight. This is ALSO true for PHAs. There is no particular “finish line” to this journey. Maintenance is about working to prevent a repeat of undesired behavior and unwanted consequences.
It is far more than keeping things running smoothly. It’s about continuing the work you started and making adjustments when necessary to keep things in top shape.
Consider adding provisions for routine maintenance to your agency’s plans. This can look like running additional reports, having daily staff meetings, implementing educational courses for your team, or ensuring that organizational efforts are prioritized. And that is just the start!
Recovery is rarely comfortable or easy, but right now it’s needed for nearly EVERY PHA in the country. With commitment and an open mind, you can see an increase in your agency’s production, expertise, and clarity of vision. The best part? The families you serve get to feel and experience the impact of your recovery.