A Driving Force For Change

A Driving Force For Change

A Driving Force For Change

Resident Commissioner Makes A Difference

By Jose Garza

Five years ago, Janet Garcia visited San Antonio driving a family member’s vehicle from Midland to their new home.

Spending one day in the city gave Garcia, who was battling depression at the time due to the loss of her mother, the clarity that a fresh start in a new community was necessary after visiting McAllister Park and learning about the available pay wages.

“That park saved my life,” she said. “I had no family here, and I was just here by myself. I know why I am here.”

Garcia, a participant of Opportunity Home’s public housing program, made the move from El Paso to San Antonio after finding new employment, and has since made an impact in her new city.

She currently serves as a resident representative on Opportunity Home’s Board of Commissioners, appointed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Prior to being selected to serve on the board, Garcia was a member of her property’s resident council, where she and her neighbors discussed and developed solutions to improve their community, and a volunteer with the Avenida Guadalupe Association, where she packed food for distributions and handed out flyers promoting events on the Westside.

Garcia remembers when she got the call she was selected to serve on the organization’s board, jumping up and down in the living room with her children when they got home.

“My daughter was asking, ‘Did you get it?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know yet, honey.’ It didn’t hit me until the swearing-in ceremony that I was a part of the board,” she recalled.

Garcia’s time in San Antonio hasn’t been without its challenges.

An illness and two surgeries led to her being unemployed, homeless and applying for housing assistance from Opportunity Home.

Garcia then took advantage of her new beginnings to create a path toward self-sufficiency by enrolling in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. The FSS program assists residents with working toward short- and long-term goals, such as education, employment and homeownership, within a five-year period.

Currently enrolled in the program, Garcia is pursuing a Community Health Worker certificate at Alamo Colleges’ Westside Education and Training Center and is looking to further her education after she graduates in April 2024.

She is actively gaining work experience in the field as an intern at the House of Neighborly Service, where she conducts assessments of homes in the Westside community to determine if upgrades are necessary.

Garcia’s long-term goal to become a community health worker is to inform residents how health, housing and education are connected and can collectively impact San Antonio.

“Having that knowledge and sharing it with others is a blessing because not everybody can.”

Garcia credits Resident Service Coordinator Zandra Garcia for helping provide the resources she needed to excel in her community, such as clothing from Dress for Success to wear for a job interview.

“I have not become the person I am today by myself,” Garcia said. “She has been my mentor since day one. I am where I am because of the foundation laid by Zandra. My light was turned on because someone saw the potential in me. If I didn’t have that push, I wouldn’t have become successful.”