Reshaping the Housing Perspective

Reshaping the Housing Perspective

Growing up in St. Ann, Jamaica and raised by a single mother in a “red dirt” structure with no running water, Dr. Jeneise Briggs dedicated herself to a career serving underrepresented communities.

“I have always been a champion for those disenfranchised and ostracized,” said Briggs, who holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.

Hired as Opportunity Home San Antonio’s first Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in July 2022, Briggs seeks to reverse the decades-long history of housing inequality in San Antonio.

Briggs came to Opportunity Home from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where she served as the city and county’s EDI Coordinator for more than a year, and, prior to that role, as diversity and inclusion specialist for the State Bar of Wisconsin. Briggs was charged with ensuring equity was built into both organizations’ policies and procedures. 

Now, Briggs leads advocacy efforts for Opportunity Home, where she is helping advance compassionate, equitable and vibrant communities in a city that has historically been one of the most economically segregated areas in the nation.

Forming the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) workgroup, their focus is on shaping ideas that lead to creating equitable housing in the city, and Briggs has forged alliances with community partners like Gonzaba Medical Group, the YWCA of San Antonio and others in the process.

These relationships aim to create widespread changes for underserved residents.

“The ultimate goal is for residents to live in areas that benefit from equitable living systems,” Briggs said. “Someone’s zip code doesn’t determine how they fare in life.”

To give residents the best opportunities for success, Briggs is shaping policies throughout the organization, creating an equity, diversity and inclusion language guide filled with appropriate terms and developing solutions to create literature in various languages. An equity scorecard is being developed to track the progress and effectiveness of advancing equity throughout the organization. 

Through her extensive work and partnerships, Briggs aims to discover the services needed by  residents and what has prevented them from thriving in their communities.

“We are trying to figure out what is the structure and outcome we want to see,” she said. “Are we trying to work on a redevelopment project and make properties accessible for community resources, or perhaps we might need to work on including an elevator or ramp at a property.”

Briggs hopes that the organization’s efforts position the organization as a local, state and national equity leader.

“We are all here to lend our time, talent and expertise in leaving the world a better place than we found it,” she said. “Any form of recognition in our equity work to help relieve suffering for the most disenfranchised is a win.”