With over eight years of experience in resident-centered and data-driven program design and creative partnerships, involvement with The University of Michigan School of Social Work as an adjunct professor, an entrepreneurial leadership style, and a commitment to serve, Marquan Jackson hit the ground running when he joined APAH in April 2021.
We sat down with our Director of Resident Services to discuss current initiatives and the future of our Resident Services Department, “We provide services for children, families, individuals, veterans and so many others, but the mission extends beyond that. We are allies and advocates for our neighbors and are committed to systemic change and equity within the communities we call home.”
E-News: Even with the restrictions of the pandemic, you’ve jumped in quickly to get to know APAH residents, what have you learned and how is it shaping your plans?
Jackson: After a handful of conversations with residents at the very beginning of my time with APAH, it was immediately clear that residents need support now more than ever. In the field [of social services] we are committed to providing tangible solutions – to do that, we need to be in contact with the people we serve regularly. The pandemic has been an opportunity for the entire social services field to re-evaluate how we deliver services; since I have been at APAH I have worked to build the team and think strategically about how we incorporate resident voice and their lived expertise into all that we do. We sit down, talk to, and engage with the people who are living the experience and create solutions that truly meet their unique and evolving needs.
E-News: APAH is growing rapidly, what are your priorities to meet the needs of our growing community of residents?
Jackson: For our Resident Services Program to both maximize impact and be intentional about how we show up for our community, I quickly realized that we needed to expand the team. Since this spring, we have hired three new Resident Services Coordinators, bringing the total to four. The priority is for each to be on site at least 30 hours each week at our larger properties in order to build relationships and provide a consistent resource for residents as they navigate the pandemic.
E-News: You talk a lot about creating joy and celebrating resilience—why is that so central to your approach and what are some of your plans?
Jackson: I’ve worked in social services for almost ten years and I’ve learned so much from the families I have served. It is imperative to celebrate the tenacity and resiliency exhibited by our residents. I feel that if resident services truly wants to make an impact and provide a positive experience for our residents, we must strive to lighten their load, be allies and advocates, and continue to be part of their safety net. Any programming we provide or resource we introduce should always have the intention to provide respite, remove a barrier, or make their situation easier. Having fun and celebrating community goes a long way toward doing that.
E-News: You’ve been in Arlington now for nearly six months, what are the differences and similarities between your work in Michigan and Virginia?
Jackson: Prior to APAH, the agency where I worked served a primarily African American demographic. Ypsilanti is 45 minutes away from both Flint and Detroit, two of the blackest cities in America with deep systemic wealth and racial inequity. On top of that, all of the area we served was impacted by the reorganization of the auto industry, which took families from middle class with a limited skill set to unemployed, overnight.
APAH’s population is much more diverse both racially and economically but interesting enough there’s a subset of families across the portfolio (the lower 20%) whose needs are the same. They are one check away from losing it all and barely making the rent while managing to balance their limited income and stretch their money to meet the monthly needs of their household.
E-News: Looking ahead, what are your priorities and hopes for our residents and for resident services?
Jackson: I’m excited to work with our residents, with my colleagues at APAH, and with our Board to sharpen our priorities and workplan. Some of the priorities we are exploring together:
- Address food insecurity across the entire portfolio. I am eager to find ways to provide food delivery at all of our properties and to expand our efforts so we can include other essentials, like diapers.
- Continue out of school programming. We recognize the learning loss that has taken place because of the pandemic. It is imperative that APAH continues to fill in the gaps and provide academic, social, and emotional support for students and families as they navigate the education system.
- Prioritize childcare for families. We have already started to provide families financial support to help offset the childcare barrier, but there is such a shortage of quality, affordable childcare. I’m really eager for APAH to be a part of the solution to ensure that our residents have a quality program to enroll their children in as they return to the workforce.
- Support financial wellness. In efforts to provide a vehicle for our residents to experience upward mobility, APAH is exploring the possibility of piloting Individual Development Accounts and Child Savings Accounts.
E-News: APAH is blessed to work in a supportive and generous community—how can people get involved and support APAH residents and the work of you and your team?
Jackson: If people feel inclined to support the team, we are always looking for volunteers to share their time, talent, and/ or treasures! Please reach out to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a time to discuss how you might show up for the families of APAH in a meaningful way.
I am excited be in the D.C. Metro Region, which offers an abundance of resources to people who are in need of support. I am glad that my colleagues at APAH are committed to providing systemic change to interrupt poverty, and will not stand by the status quo, but instead provide programs that treat the symptoms of poverty. We are working to create change and increase equity in a way that has a real impact on our communities.