(CP Proxmire, April 15, 2017)
Ferndale, MI – If it weren’t for Carole Morency sharing information with those investigating the Ferndale Housing Commission, the lives of the seniors, disabled and low-income residents in the housing program might not be the same.
Under the direction of a careless board and a drug-addicted director, residents had an increasingly restricted life. But as protestors claimed that racial discrimination was the cause of mistreatment, stories began to emerge of residents’ rights being ignored, people being booted out for complaining, public spaces being closed to prevent “unauthorized meeting,” and ultimately Director Deborah Wilson being arrested and convicted for entering residents’ apartments and swapping their pain pills for over the counter medicines.
Morency, who has now sat on the board for 15 years, advocated behind the scenes, and eventually a HUD investigation, a new board, and a new Executive Director meant a new life for residents.
With her term ending May 5, Morency decided not to apply again. Her last meeting was Wednesday, and grateful residents came out to share their appreciation. They gave her a teddy bear with a shirt that said “Somebody in Ferndale loves you,” and the board – all of whom have been on for less than two years – gave her a recognition reception and a clock to show their gratitude.
“She was here through all those years,” said FHC Chairperson Ann Heler. “She has all that history. We refer to her many times – What did you do? Why did you do it?”
Morency was the resident commissioner who continues to live in the Withington building. She moved in 22 years ago and for the past 15 years has been a person that the residents could count on to help bridge the communication gap between themselves and administration. When the organization’s leadership fell apart and other board members ignored her, Morency sought outside help to get the organization back on track. “For many here she is a hero,” Heler said.
“I’ll still be here,” Morency said. She plans on being involved in the Withington residents’ group and to be available should any board commissioners or administration have any questions.
On Wednesday the City Clerk also came to swear in the FHC’s newest member Deanna Tartaglia, who brings a history of working with housing programs to the board. Morency’s departure leaves a vacant seat that is traditionally reserved for a resident of the FHC program.
“We’ve already had several residents apply,” said FHC Director Heather VanPoucker. “It’s amazing to see how people have gotten so involved. Our resident groups are growing and people really are part of a community here. Those who want to apply can pick up an application in the office or they can apply online.”
When asked if she had any advice for the incoming commissioners, Morency said they should “open up their hearts, and open their mind to new things. Change is hard but the changes we’ve been going through have all been to make things better.”
The online application can be filled out at https://ferndalemi.seamlessdocs.com/f/BoardCommApp2015