Helping One Norfolk Resident Find Community

March 29, 2021

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A Norfolk resident, Ms. Hagans, finds the perfect neighborhood to raise her grandson, Ray.

Barbara Hagans has been living in the Tidewater Gardens neighborhood for nearly eight years. After suffering from the loss of family members and losing a job, she felt blessed to be able to have a place to call home in the community. When she recently found out that she needed to look for another place to live during the renovation of the neighborhood, she began working with a Family Support team from People First Empowered by USI.

Finding the right fit for Ms. Hagans

“Imani (her Family Support Specialist) was on it, she is wonderful,” Ms. Hagans said. “Imani came up with a list of places for me to visit and I was able to choose where I wanted to live,” she added. Ms. Hagans visited some places that didn’t feel like home, but when she visited the Bayview community, she felt like it was the right place for her and her 9-year-old grandson Ray.

“I love the place that I’m moving to. It’s a mixed neighborhood. Ray can see people of different cultures getting along with each other. Residents embraced me when I visited. I felt special.” – Ms. Hagans

A portrait of Ms. Hagans and her grandson, Ray.

“One lady took me through her house. Another did the same. They all love Miss Nicole (lead Mobility Specialist from People First Empowered by USI). She knows how to take care of people and help with the paperwork. Miss Nicole knew the landlord and recommended me because of who I am and my rental history. It really made me feel good,” Ms. Hagans said.

“I have a parking space right in front of my apartment. There is a neighbor across the street with a son Ray’s age. They’ve already met and played video games together. They understand each other. The neighbors and I have shared our stories with each other. Everyone has a story. We’re going to get along,” she added.

All this happened before Ms. Hagans moved into her new home.

Ms. Hagans enjoys cooking and is looking forward to preparing meals in her kitchen. “I don’t remember a time that my family ever went hungry. With nine kids, I learned how to make filling foods – rice, potatoes, homemade biscuits, beans, cornbread, and more. My kids stop by for meals now. Food is love,” she said.

The role People First Empowered by USI had in Ms. Hagans’ life

Ms. Hagans sitting in a lawn chair outsideWhen asked about People First Empowered by USI, Ms. Hagans said that the program ‘allowed me to be me.’ “Imani is a beautiful person. If she couldn’t help me right then, she always was able to connect me to the right people. She is so helpful. She calls all the time. She cares,” said Ms. Hagans.

“I had choices. I looked at the environment. I didn’t want to experience some of the things that I had experienced before.” – Ms. Hagans

“Miss Nicole is a beautiful person who has helped a lot of people. She is a connector. I have a new home with a large yard. I’m going to teach Ray how to grow vegetables. It feels complete and in a safe neighborhood. Ray loves the beach. We now live about five blocks away from the beach. I can’t wait to surprise him,” she added.

It’s more than just a new neighborhood

In addition to helping find housing choices, Ms. Hagans’ USI Family Support team referred her to one of their community partners, Norfolk Works, to help her find a job. The organization aligns economic and workforce development efforts and champions the recruitment of diverse Norfolk talent. Ms. Hagans’ job search was successful.  She would like to own her own home one day and be able to leave something for the kids.

With the support of People First Empowered by USI, Ms. Hagans is moving to a Neighborhood of Opportunity.  This is defined by HUD as a neighborhood with less than 40 percent poverty and less than 63 percent minority concentration. 

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