Maryanne Bravo praised Monroe County Housing Authority for offering quality housing for more than 223 families in Monroe County who need it.
The efforts of the people who run the organization were honored Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized MCHA with the Rural Development Award of Excellence. The award ceremony was conducted at Eastwood Manor, one of the properties managed by MCHA. The award is presented annually in June in conjunction with National Homeownership Month.
Bravo, an area specialist for USDA, described MCHA buildings as “exceptional.”
“The tenants are happy,” she said. “You have a quality product.”
MCHA consists of 76 elderly and disabled designated units in Sparta, Tomah, Warrens, Cashton, Wilton and Oakdale. Four of the apartment buildings serve as Monroe County Senior Nutrition sites.
MCHA also administers 132 units through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Tenants are low income and would struggle to afford quality housing if not for the program. State Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, said the program gives vulnerable citizens “somewhere to hang their hat at night.”
Eligibility for the award is contingent on maintaining an acceptable occupancy rate and keeping the units in good condition without deferred maintenance or compliance issues.
“It’s clean, safe, affordable housing,” board member Kevin McCoy said.
That criteria is important to Theresa Burns-Gilbert, who has run the program for the past 24 years as MCHA executive director.
“We have worked hard to try to provide good, comfortable homes for all our tenants,” Burns-Gilbert said.
She praised her staff, who often work as “mediators.”
“Things do happen when you have 20 people in the same building,” she said.
MCHA Board member Curtis Miller described Burns-Gilbert as someone who is constantly on the road checking the status of the units and their tenants.
“She is so compassionate with the residents,” Miller said.
Hanging over the ceremony was the spectre of reduced federal funding. McCoy said it’s often difficult to provide services “while maneuvering through the intricacies of government programs.”
Miller said MCHA runs on an extremely tight budget.
“In the last couple of years we have really been pinching our pennies,” Miller said. “We’re pinching our pennies to the point where some people won’t have housing. There’s no fat to trim.”