Revere Housing Authority Director Linda Shaw has a pile of letters that she sent over nearly three years to state housing officials requesting money to fix up dilapidated, vacant housing units in the Shirley Avenue area.
She readily shows them to everyone.
Prior to this year, they were a source of frustration and letters that had never really been answered.
In 2014, they became something to laugh about as that message was finally heard, and Shaw got the ear of those state housing officials and challenged her agency to completely rehabilitate 14 units in five buildings within 12 months.
Already, two are done, and the ribbon was cut this week on another building on Thornton Street.
More ribbons are set to be cut in 2015 as well.
That, along with sweeping changes to the structure of the RHA that Shaw has made since coming on board in 2006, is why she has been chosen as the Revere Journal’s Woman of the Year for 2014.
“My way of doing things is to be really tenacious and to never give up,” said Shaw, with a smile, during an interview on Monday. “That’s what we did and why some of those many letters landed on Paul McPartland’s desk [at the state]. George Anzuoni, my board chair, was working his side at City Hall. Finally, Paul McPartland said ok. He said go ahead and work on the first three sites and show me what you can do. If you can do it, I’ll get the money for the rest of them, he said. We told him that if he helped us with the rest of them, we’d do it in a 12-month period.
“I think this has actually been the catalyst for turning Shirley Avenue around,” she continued. “Great progress has been made by others, but we were there first.”
Scattered sites on Thornton Street, Dana Street, Shirley Avenue and Campbell Avenue (also known in technical speak as 705s) had been boarded up for a combined total of 33 years.
No one lived in them.
No rent was collected from them by the RHA.
And they had become a prime target for vagrants and urban blight.
Complaints from the neighborhood were common.
Some even wrote pointed letters to this paper – and probably rightfully so.
However, with no resources to address the problem, Shaw could do nothing substantial. Not only that, she was busy completely reforming the way things in the RHA were done – from administration to maintenance to commissioner training.
In 2014, her ship came in and she received $1.8 million from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
“In my opinion, when I first came here, I thought there was no reason for Revere to have any slum areas,” she said. “I’ve lived in large cities that had slum areas and I didn’t feel Revere was big enough or the type of place that should have slum areas. At first, I had to deal with getting administrative things back in order, but what I really wanted to do was work on renovations. This year, I’ve finally been able to do that.”
And they’ve done it well.
Shaw and the maintenance staff at RHA have truly done a top-notch job in bringing the units up to muster. Many are now some of the best properties in the neighborhood, after having been the worst by far. They have gone above and beyond to improve the City and, particularly, Shirley Avenue.
In 2015, Shaw said she plans to focus on finishing the project by June, and then looking for some land or a property where the RHA can build further low-income housing.
“We no longer meet the 10 percent minimum requirements in the city,” she said.
She said she believes that in a time when housing authorities are getting increased scrutiny (read: Chelsea and Medford), the RHA is in a good, solid position.
“It has been a really good year for the housing authority,” she said. “I couldn’t do what I do without the help of my staff and my commissioners. I live here with my husband and my grandson and we like it here. Revere has been good to me. I cannot complain.”