Holiday Party: Home Is

To Kimberly Grady, Vice President of Community Development with San Diego Community Housing Corporation and SDHF RSSN Leader, “Home is… safe and comfortable.”

 “I was born into this.”

Kimberly Grady’s career as Vice President of Community Development with San Diego Community Housing Corporation (SDCHC) started 22 years ago, but the yearning to help and work with people originated when her mom was pregnant with her. At the time, her mom worked for SDCHC’s founder Robert Ito as he was overseeing the Welfare-to-Work (WTW) Program which launched SDCHC. As Kimberly puts it, “So, I was born into this.”

Her interest in affordable housing started when she was an undergraduate working for South Bay Community Services on their domestic violence response team. During her tenure, Kimberly went on to oversee several departments while earning her master’s degree in Forensic Science before returning to SDCHC. She returned to run resident services where she recognized the organization should further meet resident’s needs.

To better engage with the residents, she set up a survey and discovered the majority of the residents wanted the same thing. Without hesitation, Kimberly did the one thing that she knew would help transform the residents’ lives: she listened. The residents’ needs were simple. “They wanted something that was affordable, a place they could feel safe. They wanted education. And most importantly, they wanted something for their children and places for their children to be safe. Because you’re poor doesn’t mean you don’t know nice things.”

Read More about Kimberly Grady

Driven by community and a sense of safety, Kimberly is constantly inspired. A mentor, leader, and teacher, she helped develop Resident Services into a more fully-functioning program with heart. With her involvement, SDCHC has overseen several programs implemented to help educate and enrich the lives of residents. One such program received a state-wide grant that provided financial literacy to affordable housing providers to serve low-income minorities. The program operated throughout California, from the border of Oregon all the way down to San Ysidro. During the three-year course, the residents’ behavioral and spending changes were tracked for their effectiveness. The result? “We made a huge impact on the families,” Kimberly said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development thought so too. For her work with SDCHC, Kimberly received an award from HUD in Washington, DC recognizing her state-wide accomplishments in community development and resident services. Kimberly says she finds inspiration not only from her work, but the people in her community.

When asked what inspires her, Kimberly said, “the people that I work with. The staff that I work with. They inspire me every single day. Our CEO (Robert St. Germain) inspires me. Our founder, Robert Ito. Being able to serve the community that raised me. To be able to provide quality services to my hometown. It’s a different meaning when you’re born here and you know the residents on a firsthand level and you know the struggle and the sacrifices that they make.”

In the case of one resident, it was life-saving as well. Thanks to a good partnership with the University of San Diego’s nursing program, some residents who haven’t had adequate healthcare in years are able to receive medical services. One particular resident who hadn’t been to the doctor in 20 years had been complaining about pain underneath her breast. After an in-home mammogram, they had discovered the resident had breast cancer.

“We were able to get it just in the nick of time,” Kimberly said. “Those are the [services] that people need.”

Kimberly’s unwavering commitment to providing quality services that both educate and enrich the lives of affordable housing residents shines through in the work that she does with SDHF’s Resident Services Support Network (RSSN). Recognizing the vital role that service providers play in affordable housing, Kimberly is proud to have been a part of RSSN since its inception. Creating a space for committed and compassionate resident services professionals with meaningful and practical support through educational forums, networking opportunities, and peer learning in order to see residents flourish has been at the forefront of the mission of RSSN.

“You need that because people are going through real life stuff. And, if they are going through real life stuff, they want to know that that person is going to be there. They want to entrust and feel like they can be there with that person.”

Proving she listens and delivers, in 2012, Kimberly was awarded a Ruby for Outstanding Resident Services from SDHF and she continues to act as co-chair for the Resident Services Support Network (RSSN).

In response to finish the sentence – Home Is…, a quote from Michael Phelps came to mind, “‘Swimming is normal for me, I’m relaxed. I’m comfortable. And I know my surroundings. It’s my home.’ So, that’s what I was thinking. That’s what people feel. It’s relaxed, they know their surroundings; they feel safe. It’s their home.”

Thank you, Kimberly for sharing with us and for your continued partnership with SDHF!

Read More about Arnulfo Manriquez

“Home is… where we create our memories.”

Arnulfo Manriquez, whose parents who had a flower shop and a rose growing business, compares affordable housing to growing a rose: a project that involves time, resources, and careful attention.

Born in Mexicali, Arnulfo immigrated to the United States with his family in 1981 and grew up in Chula Vista and San Ysidro. In his final year in the Urban Studies and Planning program at UCSD, the Assistant Director of North County Housing Foundation (now Community Housing Works) came to talk about developing farm worker housing in Vista. The presentation was directed toward the idea of creating a stable home environment for farm worker families so that they wouldn’t have to migrate with the crops throughout California. This change would allow kids to stay in one school, creating the stability needed for children to succeed academically.

“I went to seven different schools in two different countries. Maybe it was subconscious, but that was something that resonated with me and it still does,” Arnulfo said.

That moment became a turning point for Arnulfo; he had discovered a passion for affordable housing. After the presentation, he met with the Assistant Director and let her know that he wanted to work at the North County Housing Foundation. Arnulfo began to work with the organization as an intern, but continued to ask questions and take on more tasks. They saw his passion and interest in the work and began to assign him project-related tasks and by the end of his college career, he was working between 25 and 30 hours per week. Now, with 24 years of experience, Arnulfo knows that affordable housing improves the livelihood of families and communities.

“If someone has a stable, safe, and adorable home environment, they can provide for their children. It creates an environment that people can thrive in.”

Arnulfo’s involvement with the San Diego Housing Federation began in 1993, when he attended the Annual Affordable Housing and Community Development Conference. As a project manager at the time, he came to the conference to learn more about housing development and meet people who do the same work. After attending a few meetings and trainings, he became more involved by participating in panels and workshops, serving on the Board of Directors for six years, including President of the Board for two years, and has served on the Conference Planning Committee several years.

Early in his career Arnulfo had a project that involved interviewing families who were living in substandard conditions and preparing to move into their own apartments. One interview was with a family of three, who were living in one bedroom of a three-bedroom house with two other families occupying the other rooms. Unable to find a quiet space, as there were about 10 people living in that home, he had to have the interview with the family in their bedroom. “When they moved out and got their own space… I could see the change it made in people.”

In 2004, at the 10 Year Anniversary of the Mercado Apartments opening, residents spoke about their living experiences. Several families mentioned they had lived at Mercado since its opening in 1994. This stood out to Arnulfo, for a big reason. At the time, Mercado had a policy that if families went over a certain income, they had to move out. This policy essentially did not encourage residents to thrive, because once they made even a penny over the income limit, they would have to leave Mercado and be on their own.

Arnulfo knew they had to change the way they work with families. Since then, the policy has been removed and has allowed families to continue to seek advancement and success. “Now we’re seeing those incomes move up and seeing those families move out on their own.”  With this new transitional approach, Arnulfo and MAAC are now seeing families become more self-sufficient. When an empty plot of land is planted with a seed of stability, it allows for a garden to bloom and for life to thrive. It happens with roses and it happens with affordable housing.

“I truly haven’t seen affordable housing projects fail.”

We want to thank Arnulfo for his continued involvement with SDHF and for his commitment to creating environments where people can thrive.

Read More about Maria Hernandez

To the advocate and resident Maria Hernandez of Solara Apartments in Poway,
“Home is… peace, tranquility, safe, and secure.”

“He said yes! (Assemblyman) Brian Maienschein just said yes!”

It’s been an arduous journey getting to where she is now. When Maria first moved to California from Chicago, her expectation of the sun-kissed California lifestyle was quickly replaced with the reality of the situation.

Rent prices were too high for the single mother who depended on welfare and disability benefits. Unable to provide her daughter a decent quality of life in San Diego, she moved in with her aunt and uncle in Imperial Beach and worked to get herself on her feet. But as time passed, there was no indication that anything was going to change for Maria.

One day, her aunt literally saw a sign. It was a billboard for a newly-constructed affordable housing complex in Poway called Solara Apartments. Without hesitation, her aunt jotted down the phone number and encouraged Maria to immediately call. Within a few months, she got a call back with a move in date of April 7, 2007.

“As soon as I opened that door, it was like home,” Maria said. “We were finally home.”

Maria knew that this home was a blessing she could not and would not take for granted. Since moving into her home, she has become a devoted advocate for affordable housing. Her goal is to help anyone who is in a similar position to where she was once.

“I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I’ve struggled. I’ve lost both parents. I’m a recovering addict. I’ve been on section 8. A lot of politicians will don’t know because they’ve never experienced it.”

Maria’s advocacy led her to be a critical player in Residents United Network (RUN) and allowed her the opportunity to travel to Sacramento for Lobby Day for the last 3 years. On one of her visits to the capitol, she met California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein. Maria chased him down the halls and assertively introduced herself as constituent of his area and a resident of affordable housing. After this, it became her mission to convince the assemblyman to support affordable housing in the session and to ask for his support of the housing package known as Senate Bill 2, a measure that would create a permanent funding source for affordable housing through a new real estate fee.

For three years, Maria persistently met with the Poway Assemblyman, who remained non-committal. So, on September 14, 2017, when the votes were counted, Maria was in shock. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein had just officially supported the housing bill, making him the only Republican Assembly Member to vote in favor of Senate Bill 2.

Unable to contain her excitement, Maria woke her daughter with good news. “He said yes!” Maria Hernandez shouted. “(Assemblyman) Brian Maienschein just said yes!” For her daughter, it was just another school night, but for Maria, her years of advocating for affordable housing had paid off.

This victory wasn’t only for Maria, but for all affordable housing advocates who have devoted countless hours in hope of combatting the housing crisis. “I didn’t do this on my own, I had other people to help me,” Maria said.

Beyond advocating for affordable housing, Maria is currently studying political science in community college, hoping to continue fighting for affordable housing on behalf of those who still need it.

Maria has lived in Solara apartments for over ten years and says that she lives with a sense of security and pride that was provided through an affordable home.

Thank you for all you do and have done, Maria. We are proud to have you champion affordable housing!

Read More about Rickie Brown

“Home is… a place we all deserve – no matter our color, no matter our religion, no matter our beliefs. We all deserve a home.” – Rickie Brown, City Heights Community Development Corporation

Rickie Brown is a helper, a dreamer and most importantly, a friend in her community. As both a property manager and resident of Hollywood Palms in City Heights, she works closely with families in need of support, encouragement or just a friendly face. With the San Diego Housing Federation, she has become one of our go-to volunteers and a strong, fearless advocate.

Rickie has volunteered in every SDHF event in the last four years. She is always one of the first to let us know that she is available to volunteer and help in any way she can, even bringing her colleagues along to volunteer.

This year, as we celebrate the holiday season, we are thrilled to announce that Rickie Brown is the San Diego Housing Federation’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year. Please join us in thanking Rickie for her dedication and amazing cheer at our Holiday Party on December 5th (details below).

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Rickie grew up in the “projects” in Louisiana and understood the importance of affordable housing at a young age. It became her mission to work in the field as an adult. Before moving to San Diego, she worked for low-income housing in Louisiana, but it wasn’t until she worked for the City Heights Community Development Corporation that she truly understood the severity of the housing crisis here in San Diego.

Six years ago her then boss, Hanan Bowman, who was on SDHF’s board of directors, suggested she should get involved. She saw volunteering as a great way to learn more about affordable housing and the issues that surround it. In her words, her favorite moment volunteering has been, “seeing all the people genuinely interested in making affordable housing accessible to other people.”

Rickie participates in the San Diego Residents United Network program through SDHF and Housing California and attends Lobby Day in Sacramento yearly. Her work and volunteerism has given her insight on the importance of affordable housing and shown her the sheer magnitude of people that are suffering from the lack of it. “You need to see the good in everybody. We’re all the same. Some of us are a little less fortunate, but we’re all the same. We’re all deserving of a good life, a safe and a decent life. Basic things. Somewhere clean and safe to live, food on the table, able to take care of our kids.”

Rickie continuously volunteers as a way to continue to learn about affordable housing in order to serve more people. One of the profound lessons she’s learned along the way, is that “if you really know what you’re talking about, and if a senator or assemblyperson or councilmember asks you a question and you can answer without hesitation, you can make a connection and sway that vote.”

As a property manager for Hollywood Palms, a 94-unit affordable housing community, Rickie is a fierce leader and advocate for her residents. She sees the challenges others in need face daily and offers her support and skills. She credits her father with her gift of being able to relate to others easily.

“When something goes wrong with my residents here, I can’t sleep,” Rickie said. In one instance, one of her residents, a mother and wife, passed away from cancer. The woman’s widower came into Rickie’s office desperate, begging for help. The section 8 voucher was under his wife’s name and he was now facing the possibility of being separated from his children. Rickie knew she had to help, but she had no idea how.

That same night, Rickie shot straight up out of bed at 3:00 AM with an idea. “Speak up for them,” Rickie said. She made a call to the San Diego Housing Commission and spoke on his behalf. With her help, they were able to change the voucher to his name. Allowing him the father the ability to stay with his children at Hollywood Palms. “I thought to myself, Lord, if I had died and my children had to split from their father, my soul would not rest.”

“I see the people coming and I see what they’re dealing with. So that’s been my challenge. But having that challenge, has also made me know that this is where I’m supposed to be. I’ve found my purpose in advocating and (have) political aspirations.” These aspirations have led her to take a course in how to run and campaign for political office.

Always a giver – she freely gives all she is able. She lives by the rule that we were put on this Earth to help one another. Rickie remembered the words of a dear friend who passed earlier this September that, “whatever I have, I should share.” Rickie wants to be of service to those in need. “I do it from my heart. I’ll be 59 on Sunday, when I close my eyes, I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to know that when I meet my maker he’s going to say, ‘Servant, well done.’”

Help us say thank you to Rickie for her commitment to serving and for all her hard work in affordable housing!

2017 San Diego Housing Federation Annual Holiday Party and Volunteer Appreciation

Join us on Tuesday, December 5 from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm at The Lafayette Hotel for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while you network with colleagues, members, and friends. Help us celebrate our successful year and look forward to 2018 with a special tribute to our volunteers. We look forward to seeing you there! Tax deductible donations will be accepted at the door.

As part of our holiday celebration, we will recognize the 2017 Volunteer of the Year, Rickie Brown for her outstanding commitment and support of the San Diego Housing Federation.

Rickie Brown works with City Heights CDC, but her actions go far and beyond her role at work. She is currently the manager of the Hollywood Palms and Casa del Sol apartment complexes. She is a renter in City Heights and dedicates herself to provide resources, and safe and secure housing for her residents. Rickie has advocated locally & statewide bringing strong attention to the housing crisis as well as utility policy injustices through her ability to passionately present to Sacramento representatives, senators and legislators. Rickie fights for affordable housing and to abate power shut offs as she does not want any of her residents homeless or in the dark. SDHF is proud to have her represent us as a volunteer at our events every year, as she exemplifies what it means to be passionate, kind and hard-working. Congratulations Rickie on your 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award!

Tuesday, December 5

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

The Lafayette Hotel
2223 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92104

Thank you for supporting SDHF in this past year. With your help, SDHF will continue to work to create more inspiring moments through advocating, informing, expanding the expertise, networking and building of coalitions throughout the region. Each contribution helps advance our mission of working as a coalition to promote the creation of quality affordable housing focused on lower income families and people in need.

The San Diego Housing Federation is once again participating in #GivingTuesday which will fall on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, a global day dedicated to giving. We encourage you to join the movement and visit to learn more about how you can make a difference.

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Please Donate Today! 

Donation Levels

Hope – $25 

Engage – $50 

Inspire – $100 

Empower – $250

This year, we are fortunate to have a match campaign courtesy of San Diego Interfaith Housing Foundation that will match every dollar donated up to $4,000.

All donations are tax deductible. Every dollar counts! Thank you for your support! We look forward to a great 2018!

Read about the 2016 Moments that Inspired Us