Creating Magic at Providence Housing Authority

More than satisfying.


“It’s more than satisfying — it’s magical.”

That’s how Josselyn Florian describes the feeling she gets when one of her clients finds a job. Josselyn works for the Providence Housing Authority (PHA); her job is to help people prepare for, and find, work. For many of her clients, it’s a difficult road traveled before finally hearing those two long awaited words: “You’re hired.”

PHA creates opportunities for their clients using the Financial Opportunity Center Model (FOC), with funding from United Way of Rhode Island.

Sorrel Devine, PHA’s Director of Resident Services, believes the best way to serve the community and bring about lasting change is through an FOC. After founding theirs in 2011, PHA saw that delivering three crucial services at the same time, in the same physical location, exponentially increased their clients’ chances of becoming financially independent.

So, what are these three services? Financial coaching, income support, and work force development. It takes three years to successfully navigate these areas, with the first year being the most intense.

Financial Coach Monah Rhodes works with clients during that first year. She helps them repair their credit, get out of debt, and learn to budget. Facing the reality of often long-neglected finances can be difficult, but no more difficult than shouldering the burden of living with them. “I’ve worked with clients who are so scared they begin crying when we start to create a budget. But, they soon realize it’s going to be alright – and when they do, it’s like a weight is lifted off their shoulders,” says Monah.

Once Monah has helped with their finances, they begin working with an Income Support Specialist to find out if they’re receiving all the benefits they qualify for, including cash assistance, SNAP, and WIC. If a client qualifies for a benefit they’re not receiving, the Income Support Specialist guides them through the application process.

Finally, after completing the first two years, clients meet with Josselyn, PHA’s Workforce Education and Employment Specialist. She ensures they have the qualifications and skills necessary to compete in the job market. Along with training, she focuses on developing each client’s soft skills, including strengthening their resume, conducting mock interviews, and guiding their job search. Experience has taught her the best outcomes occur when clients find their own job, with her support. She explains that when this happens, clients stay in the job far longer than they otherwise would.

The program’s current case load is 88 clients; saying that Sorrel, Monah, Josselyn, and the entire staff have their hands full is, well, an understatement. Their hard work combined with an unwavering passion for their clients is the reason the program has been so successful. When staff members believe that helping a person is not only satisfying, but magical, something very special has been created — something with the promise to touch lives.


By: Jason Boulay, UWRI Communications Coordinator, Strategic Marketing & Communications