Residents express thanks to Allegheny County Housing Authority
The Allegheny County Housing Authority has improved the quality of life for many individuals by providing safe and sanitary housing for low-income families and senior citizens.
With at least 25,000 people in 3,200 public housing and 5,500 Section 8 units, executive director Frank Aggazio calls his work “a labor of love.”
“Many of them may not have a home if it wasn't for us,” he said. “I think it's very important that they have a housing authority.”
Many housing neighborhoods have on-site programs such as day care, year-round children's programs, playgrounds and ball fields, health clinics, resident leadership opportunities and community gardens.
Authority residents from Homestead, Clairton, Duquesne, Braddock and other areas showed their appreciation for Aggazio and his staff at a celebration on Wednesday afternoon at the Homestead Apartments at 441 E. Eighth Ave.
“I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the residents for organizing this and recognizing me and my staff,” Aggazio said. “I feel, and my staff feels, deeply honored to be here today ... We would like to do more for you residents. We certainly would like to be in more communities if we could. We'd like to provide more safety, provide more services.”
Gloria Weatherspoon, a former Homestead council president and current Clairton resident at G.W. Carver Hall, chaired the event.
“I see it as a blessing,” Weatherspoon said of the authority. “The housing is comfortable. They keep things clean. They repair the breakdowns, and our executive director is really concerned about the happiness of the residents. He's really focused on the residents, and I'm satisfied. I'm very comfortable here, and I'm proud to be a resident of the Allegheny County Housing Authority.”
Aggazio has been executive director since July 1998. He was deputy director two years prior to that.
He received multiple tokens of appreciation on Wednesday, including trophies from residents and proclamations from state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald.
“We're very fortunate to have someone like Frank Aggazio and how he works in each community,” Fitzgerald said.
Clairton councilman Richard Ford shared stories about growing up in the former Blair Heights project, and how Aggazio helped that area.
“That neighborhood produced some of the greatest people that I know,” Ford said.
Homestead Mayor Betty Esper said she knew Aggazio for many years, and commended him for improving the Homestead Apartments.
“It's a beautiful building and it's utilized, I think, very well,” Esper said.
Aggazio addressed some misconceptions about housing authority properties and their residents.
“Most people in public housing are hardworking folk,” he said. “They just want to make a better life for themselves and their children.”
Upcoming housing authority projects include a complete modernization of the senior high-rise Wilmerding Apartments, and renovations to the Park/Sheldon Apartments.
The authority broke ground last week for 44 new single-family units in Duquesne called Orchard Park. They are being developed within the next 14 to 16 months at the old Burns Heights site, a 140-unit housing complex that was torn down about five years ago.
“We're doing a lot of work,” Aggazio said.
Its funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which Aggazio said was reduced like many other government-supported programs.
“We're not getting nearly what we need, and not nearly as much as we used to get,” Aggazio said. “It hurts us drastically ... There's an economic benefit to having a housing authority. The work we do, the work the contractors do, the service that we provide. We're in all the counties and cities. We add a lot to the economy.”
Actual housing authority budget figures were not available at the event. People who want to support the housing authority should contact their local congressmen.
More information about the authority is available online at www.achsng.com.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.