PCHA’s Magnolia Gardens attracts national attention for its exceptional model of services

April 16, 2010 

PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDAMagnolia Gardens Assisted Living Facility (ALF) is one of the nation’s innovative affordable assisted living properties and is leading the way in societal change in senior care.  MIA Consulting Group, Inc. partnered with the Pinellas County Housing Authority (PCHA) are working together to implement a unique model of affordable housing in an assisted living facility, helping to change national policy on care for low-income seniors.

Conchy Bretos, CEO and founder of MIA Consulting Group, Inc., launched her company in 1995 in an effort to create a model that provides services to low-income seniors and disabled adults living in public housing.

Since then, MIA has expanded their model of public housing assisted living facilities into 23 states.  Conchy Bretos has been a leader in changing senior care.  Through her work with public housing authorities, she is trying to change national policy to facilitate these projects throughout the United States

Recently, Conchy Bretos was elected as an Ashoka Fellow for her groundbreaking approach to caring for low-income seniors living in public and affordable housing.   This award is very prestigious and is going to enable MIA Consulting, Inc. to work with federal officials in an effort to bring HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and HHS (Health and Human Services) together to support housing authorities like PCHA that want to bring these services to elderly residents where they live. 

According to Pilar Carvajal, Chief Operating Officer of MIA Consulting, Inc., “Magnolia Gardens is a wonderful facility that needs to be replicated more often.  PCHA is one of the trailblazers in affordable housing assisted living.”

Conchy Bretos, CEO of MIA Consulting Group, Inc. says, “There is already a tremendous need for affordable assisted living facilities, a need that is going to become increasingly important as the number of seniors, below the poverty line, is expected to double in the next eight years.  It is a natural fit for public housing authorities to be a part of the assisted living world.”

MIA assists for-profit and not-for-profit clients in the implementation and management of affordable assisted living facilities, from first market analysis to full on-site management.  One of their most successful projects nationwide is Magnolia Gardens in Pinellas Park, Florida.

PCHA is honored to be a part of this innovative solution to a global situation. For more information about  Magnolia Gardens Assisted Living Facility, please call 727-489-6440 or visit our Web site at www.pinellashousing.com.

About Pinellas County Housing Authority (PCHA):

Formed in 1965 and governed by a five member Board of Commissioners appointed by the Governor of the State of Florida, the Pinellas County Housing Authority (PCHA) provides housing and rental assistance to a total of more than 4,500 families in Pinellas County. The authority is proud to be rated by HUD as a “High Performing” agency. More information about the authority’s programs and services can be found at www.pinellashousing.com.


About Magnolia Gardens Assisted Living Facility:

Magnolia Gardens ALF is located at 3800 62nd Avenue North in Pinellas Park.  In 2006, Magnolia Gardens opened its doors as an affordable assisted living facility.  The property offers 14 floor plans from studios to two-bedroom apartments designed with comfort, safety and convenience in mind. Each room includes a private bathroom and kitchenette. Every detail was considered to provide residents with a superior living experience that is sensitive to their needs.  For more information about Magnolia Gardens ALF, please visit our Web sites at www.pinellashousing.com  and www.magnoliagardensassistedliving.com or call (727) 489-6440.


About Conchy Bretos, CEO MIA Consulting, Inc.:

Ms. Bretos is an experienced lobbyist, activist and executive administrator of special population programs, both national and international. She served as the Florida Secretary for Aging, Program Director of World Health Organization and Director of Housing for Florida International University.  Ms. Bretos is a graduate of Oberlin College, and received an MBA from the University of New South Wales, Australia.  She is the first winner of the Civic Ventures 2006 $100,000 Purpose Prize, a prize given to innovators over the age of sixty that have brought about societal change.  She is now also an Ashoka Fellow. 

PCHA opens new Home Ownership Resource Center

Owning a home seems out of reach for so many people, especially in today’s economy. Even with declining home prices, for many in affordable and assisted housing, the dream of owning their own home is just that – a dream.  

Rabon Sanders knows all too well about circumstances getting in his way for the proverbial American Dream.

Self-employed for 23 years, owning an accounting business and then consumer electronics business, Sanders had it all:  family, career, success, health.  And then a rare disease called Post-Polio Syndrome from a sickness he had when he was three years old, caused his body to gradually weaken until he lost his ability to walk.  Not only did he lose his ability to walk, he lost his health, his family, his business and his money.  

Disabled and on a fixed income, for the last 12 years, Sanders lived in public housing. He said “I lost my pride and my hope.”  After he began participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program Sanders began pursuing a variety of  first time home buyers programs through local government agencies. Eventually he received approval for assistance from the City of St. Petersburg‘s WIN program after taking steps necessary to meet the qualifications of the program.  Still, his mortgage payment would eat up a very large portion of his monthly income, making homeownership difficult on his fixed income.  When PCHA recently reignited its Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program,Sanders was ready to go. 

Sanders says he “can’t say enough about the PCHA’s home ownership program. I’m so grateful that they took the initiative to open it back up.” Now that he is settled into his new home, he has taken on the task of helping others reach similar goals that he has had the privilege of achieving through beneficial programs such as PCHA’s.

Because June is National Home Ownership month and he has such a fascinating life journey, Sanders was recognized at the June Board meeting as an inspiration to others and as the first homeowner since PCHA’s program was reinstated. Speaking to PCHA’s Board he said, “I just appreciate your efforts tremendously. It’s a time when there are opportunities that many people can take advantage of. I’m proud to live where I do and I haven’t had that pride of living quarters for quite a long time.”  

He thanked Executive Director Debbie Johnson and the Board and said, “It’s unbelievably wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without you.”  

On June 1st, PCHA opened its Homeownership Resource Center, located at 11479 Ulmerton Road in Largo.  The Center houses information about local and state homeownership programs, first time homebuyer information and the HCV Homeownership Program for HCV participants.  The Center is open to the public.  For more information about PCHA’s Homeownership Resource Center and programs, please call the Resident Services and Programs Department at 727-443-7684, ext. 3046.

PCHA recognized by FAHRO for implementing green intitatives

June 17, 2010

In June 2009 the Pinellas County Housing Authority’s (PCHA) Board of Commissioners had a vision of the agency becoming more environmentally conscious.  The Board established “Implementing Green Initiatives” as one of five major strategic goals over the next five years.  One year later the PCHA has been certified a Green Business Partner by the Pinellas County and has been recognized locally and nationally its green initiatives and efficiencies.

As part of this strategic effort, PCHA continues to reinforce its commitment to effective stewardship of the earth’s natural resources, identifying opportunities to adopt more sustainable practices in the day-to-day operation of our agency, programs and properties. 

At the June 16, 2010 meeting of PCHA’s Board of Commissioners, Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent of Pinellas County Extension, presented the Commission with the Green Business Partnership certificate.  She explained to the Board about the process of becoming a green business partner and its inclusion of a comprehensive where they assess waste and energy reduction and overall business practices. She congratulated the Housing Authority for becoming a green business partner and being a leader in the county. 

According to Pinellas County Extension’s website, the Green Business Partnership (GBP) is a voluntary assessment that recognizes businesses, business organizations and local governments for their environmental stewardship and sustainable practices. Offered through the University of Florida/IFAS Pinellas County Extension, it encourages conservation of resources, waste reduction, energy conservation and cost savings. 

A collaborative effort of businesses, business organizations and county government, Pinellas County Extension provides advice and guidance through an assessment process. Becoming a GBP requires meeting a series of requirements and commitments, while enjoying environmental and business benefits such as: cost savings, healthy work environment, increased productivity and product rebates.

PCHA is one of the first businesses in the county to be recognized as part of this cutting-edge program and continues to be a community leader by demonstrating a commitment to a sustainable future. “Receipt of this designation is the culmination of a dedicated effort by staff over the past 12 months to meet the goals set by our very progressive and committed Board.” said Debbie Johnson, Executive Director.

A “Green Procurement Policy” was adopted by the Board of Commissioners during the May 26, 2010 meeting of the Board of Commissioners.  Through the implementation of this new policy we will support our environmental commitment through the purchase of products and services that will minimize any negative environmental impacts of our work. 

PCHA became a member of the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) in May and we look forward to participating in FGBC activities.  The FGBC continues to lead efforts to promote green building and sustainable development in Florida.  


Magnolia resident celebrates 100 years!

Rachel Haynes, a resident at Magnolia Gardens Assisted Living Facility located at 62nd Ave N, Pinellas Park, FL. celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday September 18, 2010.  The party, held at Magnolia Gardens, was attended by over 100 friends and family members in honor of Rachel. She entered the party dancing to the music and even sang “The Our Father Prayer” to everyone’s enjoyment. A special guest of the party was Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler.  Mayor Mischler presented Rachel with a Proclamation to make Saturday September 18th, 2010 Rachel Haynes Day in Pinellas Park, FL. He also presented Rachel with a “Key to the City” lapel pin.

Rachel has been an active member of Suncoast Cathedral Church in St. Petersburg since moving to Florida in 1982. She still attends the Senior Saints Group there every Monday.

Rachel is a very active resident of Magnolia Gardens and does not let her age get in the way of living.   She enjoys dancing, daily walks about the property and she plays Nintendo Wii Bowling and Golf. On a weekly basis, Rachel participates in day trips to the local shopping centers and restaurants.

Rachel said, “My faith in God has sustained me all these years. I love to share my faith with others and how the Lord has protected me, guided me, and continues to keep me safe.” She often sings as she is walking and always has a song in her heart. She smiles all the time and always has a kind word to say to everybody she meets. Even though Rachel uses a walker to get around, it is hard to keep up with her as she is so agile.

Rachel may have just turned 100 years but you would never know it after meeting her. She is quite the lady!

PCHA earns another high performing score from HUD!

September 27, 2010

Being scored a “High Performer” through HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center, or REAC, is no easy task, but the PCHA has successfully achieved this status once again.   Receiving a 99 out of a possible 100 points, the housing authority has earned the designation from HUD through a scoring system which fairly measures the performance of a public housing agency (PHA).  Debbie Johnson, PCHA’s executive director said “I’m very proud of PCHA’s outstanding staff.  They work diligently throughout the year to assure that we achieve excellent performance in each indicator.”

The Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) electronically collects individual subsystem scores, based on four major indicators such as physical inspection, financial condition, management operations, and resident satisfaction and service.  Once the system collects the scores, it produces a composite PHAS score that represents a PHA’s management performance.  PHAS scores are compiled and issued on a yearly basis.

PCHA also holds a “High Performer” designation through HUD’s Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP). For more information about HUD’s certification process, please visit www.hud.gov or to find out more about PCHA’s “High Performer” designation, housing properties or various housing programs, please call 727-443-7684 or visit our website at www.pinellashousing.com.