Karin Court tenants urged to form group

Benefits of residents’ organization cited by borough’s Housing Authority

By: Marjorie Censer
   The Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton is taking steps to help Karin Court residents form a residents’ organization.
   Toni Whitaker, the authority’s operations manager, hosted a recent meeting to provide information for residents on how to create a group that could hear resident concerns and present them to the Housing Authority. Residents at the authority’s Clay Street, Franklin Terrace and Maple Terrace locations already have a longstanding residents’ organization.
   Ms. Whitaker said the groups can benefit both the residents and the office — it gives residents a comfortable place in which to share their problems and helps the authority more efficiently handle complaints.
   "If there’s a concern — a deep concern among the whole body of residents at that site — they can more efficiently lobby their concerns," Ms. Whitaker explained.
   James Brown, a member of the existing group and a Clay Street resident, said the organization is a place residents can speak freely.
   "They may feel more comfortable talking to the residents’ council first," he explained.
   For tenants, it also can serve as an opportunity to meet their neighbors and to hear information about what is going on in the community.
   If the organization becomes very active, Ms. Whitaker said, the group can even organize as a nonprofit organization and fundraise for improvements for their site.
   At Karin Court, however, Ms. Whitaker concedes that it has been difficult to start a group. The housing site is small — just 16 units — and is located in Princeton Township, near Princeton University’s Lawrence Apartments, far from the Housing Authority office. Ms. Whitaker said these factors make a residents’ organization all the more important. But the participation level thus far has been low, she said, and there’s only so much the Housing Authority can do.
   "It’s for them," she said of the organization. "It’s for their benefit."
   She held a meeting at which she distributed a booklet that provided tips on how to hold the first meeting, how to structure the organization and how to fundraise once the group is established. The other Housing Authority sites — Spruce Circle, Redding Circle for seniors, and Redding Circle for families — have not shown interest, Ms. Whitaker said.
   But the group is intended to be detached from the Housing Authority administration.
   "Once they organize, then I pull away," Ms. Whitaker said. "The purpose of a community organization is to organize among themselves."
   Marie Geffard, a Karin Court resident who is interested in starting an organization, said her housing site needs leadership to establish an organization. She said residents are usually busy, and many are foreign and feel uncomfortable speaking.
   However, she says an organization would be helpful if Karin Court residents face a common problem. She remains hopeful that she may find some other interested members next year.