Christine DeJesus has been working as the Frankford Neighborhood Advisory coordinator for four years and she has a plethora of responsibilities. She cares strongly about the Frankford community, which is why she has devoted her time to supporting and assisting its residents, and working to solve the problems occurring in the area.
DeJesus said the main reason that residents struggle to make their tax and mortgage payments is due to a lack of local job opportunities.
As the coordinator, DeJesus is focused on providing the knowledge necessary for maintaining a home in the Frankford neighborhood.
What is the job of the NAC?
It’s our main job to make sure that people don’t move into our zone with the purpose of conducting illegal activity, such as pop-up rehabs, like halfway houses and boarding houses. Things of that nature that would cause property values to go down.
These detrimentally affect the quality of life for other residents wanting to move into the area and different businesses that may want to come to Frankford Avenue to open up shop.
I also do community events. If people come in and need assistance with applications, I do that. I’ve worked with nonprofits. I also update resumes and cover letters if people come in and need help with that.
One day does not look like the following day.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past four years?
There has been more need for assistance, particularly with the homes. Taxes are a big thing now because not only can they foreclose on your home for unpaid monthly mortgage, but also they can foreclose on it for unpaid taxes.
There are a lot of people coming in trying to seek assistance in getting their house preserved. They might have a clean and clear deed but because they’re behind on their taxes, they’re in jeopardy of getting their homes taken.
We have a lot of people seeking rental assistance as well. They’re getting kicked out of their current places and they don’t have enough money to move into a new place, so they need help with that.
Since you interact with the residents on a daily basis, what do you think is the biggest problem in this community?
Lack of jobs and opportunities. The jobs are not here in this area. You have to go quite a distance to work which can be a problem for some.
What did your most recent community initiative event entail?
We had a recent event that was basically for community assistance. We felt that we needed to assist the residences in getting the necessary resources and or funding for whatever they needed.
We had the LiHEAP program come out to help people apply for assistance and PECO came to even give out energy efficient light bulbs. We also had companies come out here to assist residents with tax relief and water issues. We had our neighborhood housing counseling organization here as well to obtain a crisis grant. If you’re in the process of getting a home, that’s where you would go to get your initial housing counseling. We also had a mortgage program come that gives you a grant to help offset the back mortgage and BenePhilly as well.
Residents could use computers with wifi to apply for cash assistance, food stamps, SSI and SSD, so we had a lot of people who were able to get assistance with that as well.
Do you run any programs for the youth in this community?
Yes. Every year, we’re granted a grant from the Philadelphia Youth Network. For the past couple years, we’ve been sponsoring children for summer contracts to come work with us.
What community initiatives are you planning on doing in the future.
I want to do an “Expunge Me and Pardon Me” clinic possibly at the end March for people who were previously incarcerated. I want to have a job fair for the ex-offenders to point them in the right direction so that they can find companies and organizations that hire them. The expunging takes about six months and the pardoning takes a bit longer but hopefully we can provide them with help to get back on their feet.
What would you say is the biggest challenge for you in this position?
There is so much to do and so little time. It’s a lot to do, especially with the mortgage outreach and home visits. My knowledge is broad-based but the NAC is here for the residents and also the organizations who want to be legally formed and recognized by the federal government in order to help the community.
– Text and images buy Sienna Vance and Shannon Senour.