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Teaching our Neighbors

Teaching our NeighborsTeaching our Neighbors is the fifth in a series of five short stories written to honor the compassion and commitment of Pinnacle team members who went to extraordinary lengths to help their communities, residents or each other. The following was recently showcased at the 2018 Pinnacle Annual Leadership Conference in Charleston, SC.

Homeless shelters are filled with the untapped potential of people who were dealt a different hand. On rare occasions, these individuals gain an advantage toward self-sufficiency by crossing paths with someone who provides the resources to help them flourish. While many at Pinnacle have a passion for helping the homeless, the catalyst of change for eight beautiful souls in Sacramento was Paula Nicholas, Regional Property Manager in northern California.

Paula has been involved with Pinnacle’s volunteer efforts for years. After taking on IREM’s Community Service efforts in Sacramento, she set out to grow REstart, a program focused on pairing housing and employment for people caught in a cycle of misfortune. Many of those eligible for this pilot program were hard-workers who simply couldn’t keep up with rising rents and were forced into shelters or other unfortunate living circumstances. REstart offered an ingenious solution.

The basic groundwork for the program was to teach individuals the tricks of the property management trade and prepare them to work in it. By law in California, multifamily properties with more than 16 units require an owner’s representative to live onsite. Graduates of REstartwould aim to get both the job and the apartment.

To start building the program, coursework needed to be created so that industry volunteers could teach down-on-their luck individuals property management skills. IREM provided the foundation for this. Then, there had to be students. Women’s Empowerment, a shelter for women needing job skills and confidence, became that source. Paula had to help find funding to pay for the $500 per student cost. After knocking on a lot of doors, she secured sponsorships for eight women to join the initial class. In one of her REstart pitches, she met the Mohannas – a game changer.

The founders of Mohanna Development shared their plan to build a micro-unit project in Sacramento’s downtown sector. Paula’s passion for REstart was so infectious that the developers are considering Pinnacle to manage their lease-up, and agreed to hire five of the graduates to staff the property.

From the time Paula took over her Community Service post at IREM to the graduation of the first REstart class, nearly 11 months had passed. Her work did not end there. Even with all their preparation, the students still had to interview and seven local employers from the Sacramento market were committed to speak with them. Paula knew that these ladies had no means to dress for success so she personally took them shopping to buy suits.

Paula’s labor of love helped transform the lives of eight women in Sacramento this past year. Now, IREM intends to roll the program out to other homeless organizations across the country. Mohanna Development has their eye on Pinnacle as future managers. And Paula is thrilled that the she was able to grow a “small plane into a jet” that will transport hard-working individuals to a better destination.