From Resident Leader to Neighborhood Family Support

Through the relocation process in the Norfolk neighborhood, Tidewater Gardens, Ms. White was able to become a true voice for the community she loved.

Ms. Marquitta White recently moved into a three-bedroom townhouse in St. Andrews Place with her two daughters ages 10 and 13. She and her daughters previously lived in Tidewater Gardens. When Ms. White found out that she needed to relocate her family during the renovation of her neighborhood she began working with a Family Support Team from People First Empowered by USI. Ms. White talked with team members about what she was looking for in a new home and they came up with choices for her.  After looking at five potential homes, she chose the townhouse in St. Andrews Place because of the peaceful feel of the neighborhood and the location at the end of a street. She also liked the yard and the field behind her home where her daughters could play.

Being a Resident Voice for Tidewater Gardens

When she lived in the Tidewater Gardens community, Ms. White became involved in the neighborhood Resident Council, a group of residents that meet regularly and have input regarding programs and plans in their community. After a month, she became the president of the Council. “Not only does it keep you in the loop, you’re able to have your hands in what’s going on in the neighborhood,” she said.

“Resident members are able to have a voice in what’s happening ‘to you and for you’. It maximizes the opportunities that are in the community and the movement. Who wants to live somewhere and not know what’s going on? I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to serve on the Council.” – Ms. White

After the announcement was made about the renovation of Tidewater Gardens, many residents began working with the Family Support Team from People First Empowered by USI to help identify wants and needs for new homes during the renovation. The relocation is occurring in phases based on the residents’ location in the community. Ms. White wasn’t scheduled to move out until late 2021, however, she chose to relocate early due to a flood in her apartment.

Moving On and Up to Family Support

While living in Tidewater Gardens, Ms. White learned of a job opportunity with People First Empowered by USI. “I knew so much about the community from the Resident Council, and I was also using the services of People First,” she said. In April she applied for and received the job offer as an outreach worker. When she started working for USI, Ms. White resigned from her position on the Council to avoid any conflict of interest in serving on the Council and working for USI.

“I went from being an advocate for residents through my work on the Council to working for USI, an organization that has a strategic plan to help residents. Working with USI, I get to provide for my family by helping people in the neighborhood.” – Ms. White.

“On the Council, we accomplished a lot including preschool programs, computer labs, and more. I got to serve on different boards to help make decisions for the neighborhood. One of the biggest accomplishments is that I was able to put smiles on residents’ faces in the midst of transition, and I was able to give them time to just breathe. I was able to put my own stuff to the side to help others,” she explained. “One of the reasons that I was interested in the job at USI was so I would still be able to help residents,” she added.

Paying it Forward

“People First not only provided me with options for a place to live, they helped with so many other things. They helped with the first month’s rent, deposit, and connection fees. They provided mobility counseling where we talked about future plans, paying bills, jobs, and much more. They also put me in contact with partner organizations like the Up Center’s program to help with budgeting and credit information and Old Dominion University’s Entrepreneurship program by the Women’s Center. In addition, I worked with an employment specialist who helped me get certified as a personal care aide and get a night job. Nicole B. (lead mobility specialist) provided great advice to me. She has a heart for what she does. She is there for residents to hold their hands through the process,” Ms. White said.

As an outreach worker, Ms. White works with families to inform them about programs and opportunities. “I encourage people from young to elderly to take advantage of all of the services and partnership opportunities. I let them know about the things that I have done through the program, and I tell them about pop-up events with snacks and resources,” she says.

Ms. White with various foods she's cooked“I tell them that we’re there for them. I knock on doors, call and do all things necessary for residents to know we can be a very important part of their lives. I let the residents know that everything is going to be alright.” – Ms. White 

In addition to working for USI, Ms. White is going to school and will receive a degree in social science and professional communications this summer. She is also a certified life coach, a personal chef, and an author of a book titled “The Process of the Chosen.”