New housing director product of system

Published 12:25 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2005

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
Christine Sherene, the new director of the Dowagiac Housing Commission, considers herself a "public housing success story."
The Benton Harbor resident joined Dowagiac Housing Commission on May 1, 2001, as Section 8 housing manager after 13 years with the Benton Township Housing Commission in Berrien County.
She officially became housing director Dec. 21, 2004, at the commisson's regular monthly meeting.
The five-member board is led by County Commissioner Minnie Warren, president, and Fred Kirsch, vice president.
The extent of the city's affiliation is to appoint commission members.
Dowagiac Housing Commission has 86 public units - 60 at Chestnut Towers and 26 at Parkside Townhouses. "We administer 115 Housing Choice Vouchers, the renamed program better known by its former name, Secton 8, a rental assistance program for low- to moderate-income individuals.
Sherene said the Housing Commission has three full-time employees and two part-timers. She's in the process of hiring two more full-time individuals - her assistant and a maintenance technician.
There is a waiting list for the townhouses and a smaller list for Chestnut Towers, which is not entirely senior citizens anymore. There is a greater demand for an assisted living facility.
Younger people with developmental disabilities are applying, plus people coming out of prison are between public housing's "one strike" rule if caught engaging in drugs or criminal activity that bars occupancy for three years and not being able to afford housing.
A self-described "Jane of all trades," Sherene said of her job, "I like helping people - and the fact that they helped me to get back on my feet from my divorce. I learned the real purpose of public housing was for as a stepping-stone for those who may have fallen on hard times to get into public housing to move up in public housing and to move out of public housing back into the private sector - which is what I was able to do."
Sherene started as an inventory clerk in 1988 and added to it residence services coordinator and other responsibilities, including maintenance.