In our Good Neighbors column, Emily Gallagher, our Community Outreach Coordinator, introduces us to the Lower East Side communities she works with every day:
Today Emily speaks with Katherine Chang, the Program Coordinator for University Settlement’s Project Home program.
Tell us a bit about the work that your organization does.
University Settlement is America’s first social settlement house, established in the Lower East Side 128 years ago. Today we provide holistic social services to the communities we serve, including childcare, senior services, youth programs, and mental health. I work for the eviction prevention program, called Project Home. We help tenants in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn who are at risk of eviction. Our case managers go with tenants to court, provide information as well as moral support, and help advocate for benefits to ensure that tenants can stay in their homes. We also provide short-term housing counseling for tenants in our communities.
Where are you (or your family) from?
My family is originally from China, and I am a first-generation American. I was born and raised in California but knew that I wanted to move to New York since the first time I visited my aunt and uncle here. I moved here for college and have lived in New York ever since.
When did you first come to the Lower East Side?
My work at University Settlement brought me to the Lower East Side just over 5 years ago.
What makes this neighborhood special?
The community here makes the Lower East Side special. Throughout my time at University Settlement, I have had the opportunity to meet many residents and community members here. I have also seen how willing neighbors are to help one another, even when they may be in a crisis of their own. Whether you’re hosting a rent party or recruiting volunteers to teach a community art class, the Lower East Side is its own best resource!
What inspired you to get involved in the lives of your neighbors?
I worked as a volunteer in the Bronx at an organization called Lift when I was in college, helping residents type up their resumes and connecting them with various resources. This experience introduced me to social services, and it inspired me to continue doing similar work after college. I was fortunate enough to be hired by University Settlement, where I am inspired by my coworkers and by our participants every day.
–Posted by Emily Gallagher, Community Outreach Coordinator