The Story Behind #THAtsmystory

My favorite part of my job is the interaction I have with our residents (especially the kiddos). I just love hearing their stories, and it always strikes me just how similar we are.

They want the same thing for their children as I want for mine. They want to feel safe and secure in their home, just like I do. We have the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and our famliies.

That is why I wanted to create the #THAtsmystory campaign.

Before I came to work for the Tulsa Housing Authority my idea of public housing and the work that a housing authority does was limited to bits and pieces I’d heard through the years. When I thought of public housing I thought of “the projects” I’d occasionally drive past in my hometown back in Arkansas. I had no first-hand knowledge or experience with a housing authority; I was, frankly, ignorant in this regard.

I think many Tulsans are in that same situation, with limited knowledge of what a housing authority is, does, and what its residents are really like.

The goal of the #THAtsmystory campaign was to shed light on an often-understood organization by sharing the stories of those who benefit from its services.

We started by telling the incredible story of Emeka Nnaka. Emeka was living the dream, playing football and striving to make his family proud. Then an accident on the field left him paralyzed and his life changed in an instant.

His new normal required new types of support which included a Housing Choice Voucher provided through THA’s Rental Assistance program. Emeka was able to find a home that met his needs and was affordable for him, which is the goal of the voucher program.

I wanted to share his story in particular because it demonstrates how quickly life can change – how quickly we can find ourselves in need of the kind of help we never imagined we would require. We are all one crisis away from needing the types of services we offer here at THA. Let’s not forget that.

If you’re familiar with Emeka’s story you know that he is the very definition of an overcomer, inspiring not just those of us here in Tulsa but fans around the world. A two-time guest on “The Ellen Show,” Ellen DeGeneres dubbed him “Amazing Emeka,” and we can’t think of a more appropriate nickname.

It’s not always a crisis like Emeka’s that leads people to THA. Sometimes we find ourselves needing a little extra support to make ends meet, despite the fact that we work (and work hard). That’s the story of NaDean Kaulaity, a mom who works three jobs and still finds time to volunteer in the Comanche Park Apartments community.

There’s oftentimes a stigma surrounding individuals who take advantage of housing subsidies. We often hear members of the community mistakenly assume that our residents don’t work. That’s just not the case. So many of our residents and voucher program participants are working, sometimes multiple jobs like NaDean. They just need a little extra support to provide a safe, secure, affordable home for their families.

That’s why NaDean’s story was important to share – she breaks that stigma and demonstrates that even in the midst of struggles, you still have something to give back to your community.

We just filmed our final installment of the #THAtsmystory campaign last week and I cannot wait for you to see it. We’re shifting gears a bit and will be sharing the stories of members of our team here at THA, stories that include how subsidized housing helped them and their families ultimately reach self-sufficiency.

It’s important to me that we share these stories alongside those of our residents and program participants to highlight just how much empathy so many of our employees have for those we serve – a level of empathy that is only accessible through personal experience.

Storytelling is such an important piece of the fabric of humanity. Its how we connect with one another and with our past. We hope you learn something new from the stories we tell as part of the #THAtsmystory campaign. And I hope you’ll be inspired to tell your own.

This blog post was written by Ginny Hensley, APR, THA’s vice president of communications.

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