Focus on resiliency at Brandy Hill Apartments

Sep 29, 2020

A new project to promote resilience and support those dealing with trauma will be coming to affordable housing in Wareham after receipt of a $2.5 million grant to the non-profit Preservation of Affordable Housing, which owns and manages the Brandy Hill Apartments.

The staff at Brandy Hill Apartments will be working to promote the wellbeing of employees and residents through the Trauma-Resilient Communities project, which could include landscaping, different lighting, and new programs for residents. 

“Essentially, the project is about taking the trauma-informed care model that works really well in school settings and healthcare settings and bringing that into a residential model,” said Julianna Stuart, the vice-president of community impact for the nonprofit. Stuart supports the staff at the organization’s properties across 11 states and Washington, D.C., although she said that Brandy Hill is one of her favorite properties.

Stuart explained that trauma-informed care — which takes a person’s history of trauma into account — is a model that works to reduce adversity and promote resilience. The five principles of trauma-informed care are safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness, and empowerment.

“Part of the reason our project is called ‘Resilient Communities’ is because there are elements of trauma-informed care that are good for everyone, regardless of their experiences,” Stuart said. She explained that the team hopes to be supportive of residents whether they are undergoing trauma or just having a bad day. 

The work will be funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge, funded by Enterprise and Wells Fargo, awarded to Preservation of Affordable Housing for work across the nonprofit’s properties. 

Stuart said the team will be re-imagining the way the property is managed, the physical spaces in the development, resident services, and amenities. Potential physical changes to the complex and its community spaces could be changing the paint colors, furniture, and landscaping to create a more inviting environment. 

Stuart emphasized that the project will be guided by the staff and residents at Brandy Hill.

There are already several community programs in place at Brandy Hill that align with this care model, Stuart said, including Homework Heroes, which connects volunteers from the Church of the Good Shepherd with students, and financial coaching. 

One of the project’s biggest goals is reducing evictions and improving staff and resident retention in the community.

“There are all sorts of things that can make it difficult for residents to remain stably housed,” Stuart said. Beyond financial difficulties, a health issue or even a broken-down car can make it hard for residents to make rent.

“The idea of retention is we want our residents to be able to live with us for as long as they are interested,” Stuart said. “While they live in our communities, we want it to be a positive, stable experience.”

Stuart said she is also interested in supporting the wellbeing of the staff at Brandy Hill. She noted that they often have really challenging jobs — managing the property, maintaining the physical spaces, and working with finances or in social services.

“The pandemic has been really hard on staff and residents. We want to make sure staff feel supported, like they can take care of themselves and be satisfied in their work, and like they want to stay,” Stuart said.

Stuart said the remainder of the year will be spent planning, with changes to be implemented in 2021.

“We’re so thrilled that we were awarded. We’re really looking forward to getting started at Brandy Hill,” Stuart said.