Alive & Well Communities
Building Community Resilience:
St. Louis, MO
The St. Louis Housing Authority
For more than 80 years, the St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA) has helped St. Louisans access affordable housing and social services. With a dedicated team of 71 employees, SLHA provides housing assistance to individuals and families through two housing programs funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development: Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher/Section 8. SLHA offers a variety of public housing options to low-income individuals, families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Our city-wide portfolio includes 38 family developments, five mixed-population developments, and four senior developments of varying sizes and types. The Housing Choice/Section 8 Program provides program participants with rental assistance towards housing in the private rental market across the metropolitan area. Through these initiatives, SLHA serves over 24,000 people.
The Community Context
Vibrant and thriving communities give their members the power and resources to actualize their vision for health and well-being. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many Missourians. A lack of quality and affordable housing for lower-income residents affects people of all races and ethnicities across our region. The St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA) serves a region with an exorbitant affordable housing need. Less than 27% of households earning less than 30% AMI have access to federally protected affordable housing. Of the few fortunate to access one of SLHA's income-based housing programs, residents often experience profound financial hardships. The average SLHA household earns less than $14,897 annually, at or far below 100% of the federal poverty limit. At this poverty level, residents lack sufficient resources to meet their basic human needs. Lack of access to even one basic need can result in vast physical and mental health disparities and a lifelong cycle of compounding disadvantage and instability for many households.
SLHA's Approach to Building Community Resilience
SLHA’s approach to building community resilience starts with centering the voice of impacted communities – SLHA residents, program participants, and neighboring community members – through Tenant Advisory Boards (TABs) and Program Coordinating Committees (PCC). Program participants and community stakeholders actively direct all aspects of SLHA’s overall mission and operation. Centering community voice allows us to foster transformation rooted in community intention and empowers marginalized populations to become change agents. SLHA works closely with TABs and PCCs to craft resident-centered programs that promote the social well-being and economic mobility of children, families, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. Improving access to critical social service supports through a centrally coordinated, place-based service delivery system is essential to mitigating adverse childhood experiences and community environments and creating a healthier, better-supported community. SLHA’s future goals include:
- Increased trauma-informed, place-based early childhood education and youth enrichment programming
- Expanded comprehensive, outcome-focused social programs to combat community apathy and social isolation
- Creation of place-based health and wellness programs that promotes individual and collective healing.
As a member of the national BCR collaborative, the St. Louis Housing Authority is working to build community resilience alongside partners including Missouri Institute of Mental Health, Affinia Healthcare, MCCB Transitions, Inc., and other regional stakeholders. This pioneering work requires exploration, experimentation, and frequent course changes. The Center for Community Resilience (CCR) provides resources and a framework to support information sharing, data collection, outcome measurement, and solution identification. The St. Louis Housing Authority has tapped into CCR's expertise to begin to build relationships with federal and state policymakers, including providing specific education on certain legislative and administrative actions.
Vontriece McDowell, MSW
Director of Resident and Community Engagement, SLHA
Latasha Barnes, JD
Chief of Staff, SLHA