We periodically spotlight a staff member or partner to help our readers get to know our mission and industry a little better.
This week we interviewed Jessie Vasquez, Lead HUD Certified Housing Counselor at Project BRAVO, a nonprofit based in El Paso Country, Texas that offers programs and services to improve the quality of life for the economically disadvantaged in El Paso. Jessie has used TSAHC's programs - including Housing Connection training - to enhance her work and amplify the impact Project BRAVO makes in its community.
Below is our interview with Jessie.
Tell us a little about Project BRAVO.
Project BRAVO is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that exists to maximize resources for an improved quality of life for the economically disadvantaged residents of El Paso County. We’re committed to putting an end to poverty by mobilizing resources and promoting self-sufficiency as we strive to achieve a better tomorrow for our community. Our programs and services are free and include the following: utility assistance, GED instruction, scholarships for testing, weatherization, HVAC repair, case management, information, referrals, HUD-certified housing counseling, low-income apartments, patient assistance for free/low-cost medications, glasses, various medical services, and other services for people in poverty.
As this is a spotlight focused on housing counseling, tell us more about the counseling services you all provide.
Our skilled Housing Counselors are HUD certified and trained through NeighborWorks, UnidosUS, and TSAHC. Our main objective is to keep our clients informed of programs and resources available to them throughout the community. We aim to provide safe, affordable, and quality housing opportunities to individuals and families in El Paso County. We provide rental, homeownership and foreclosure prevention counseling.
Tell us about yourself and how you were first introduced to the housing world.
I was initially brought on as a temp for the housing department in 2010. I learned about the programs we offer, along with how we assist people in being successful homeowners and in being financially healthy. I fell in love with what we do for the community and was able to work my way up to being the Lead HUD Certified Housing Counselor. Our program has evolved so much since then, and I am proud to be part of this team.
Walk us through a typical day for you at Project BRAVO.
I start off the day with a meeting with my team to take care of any urgencies that need to be dealt with right away. Then, we discuss our to-do lists and go over any adjustments that need to be made. Next, we deal with any callbacks and emails for at least an hour a day, then start with follow-ups with clients, lenders, and tenants. We then have individual appointments, data entry, and file maintenance. Periodically, we also handle grants, audits, contract renewals, and monthly and quarterly reporting.
What is your favorite thing about the work you do?
My top two favorite things about the work we do are being able to assist a client with saving their home from foreclosure. There is nothing better than that feeling you get when you help a family stay in their home. The other favorite is being able to get a family into their first home knowing that they have received the best guidance, education, and resources to stay in the home for the long run. It’s a very satisfying feeling.
You got to know TSAHC through our Housing Connection training for counselors. We appreciate your work as a counselor. Tell us about your experience going through that training and what people attending should expect.
The training TSAHC offers is amazing, very educational, and up-to-date. They also bring in very resourceful speakers who shine a light on programs that we may be able to utilize after we return home. Not only that, but I also get a very welcoming experience when attending your facility. TSAHC always makes you feel at home.
What information or advice has significantly helped your career or organizational goals?
Due to the pandemic, we had a significant rise in Rental & Eviction Counseling requests, so we shifted to increase the counseling for this demand. The information and training we received from TSAHC helped us with additional training for rental counseling that has really assisted us with also getting our certificate.
Which personal or professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Getting my HUD Certification before the deadline came about in August 2019. We were part of the only 25% of the HUD agencies that had at least 1 HUD Certified Housing Counselor on board by then, and we were the only ones in El Paso until last year.
Is there anything that you wish people knew about the work that you do and the impact that Project BRAVO has on its community?
Well just that we are here to help. We may not have all the answers or even the answers you want to hear sometimes. That said, we will work our hardest to assist you with getting to the right answers you need in your time of need.
On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.