BY JACLYN ROSE –
The Polk County Housing Authority boasts 180 one, two, and three bedroom apartments in Mena, Hatfield, Cove, and Wickes, with three separate locations in Mena, including Park Place by Janssen Park for the elderly, disabled and handicapped. In addition to low-income apartments, they also maintain around 125 Section 8, HUD vouchers, which provide rental assistance with private landlords.
Executive Director Penny Terrell, moved to Mena from her hometown of Bradley, Arkansas, 41 years ago, when she married her husband, Dean. The Terrell’s raised both their boys, Adam and Joe, in Mena. “I really enjoyed the school system in Mena and raising our kids here. Both our boys were very involved in football and I would say the schools were the best part of raising them in Polk County,” explained Terrell. After spending several years working at the old Cowden’s Factory, Terrell began her career with the Polk County Housing Authority in 1985, almost 30 years ago, as the Section 8 (HUD) Manager. After 13 years, she became the Executive Director upon Paul Smith’s retirement.
The Polk County Housing Authority is a federally funded entity, which is governed by a Board of Directors, made up of Polk County residents. They also receive grants and are funded by rent payments made by residents. With a sliding scale, rent is paid based on income and residents are required to submit various forms of verification before they are accepted into the program. However, if a person acquires a good job, while living in an apartment, they are not required to leave the residence. Instead, their rent is adjusted. “We encourage work here because we need the rent to pay our bills. There is a maximum rent that we hope helps someone who started with nothing and got a good job, to get back on their feet,” explained Terrell. Though there is a waiting list in most areas, currently there are available units in Cove and Wickes. If interested, contact Donna Hendrix, Public Housing Manager, at 479.394.1569. For interest in the Section 8 HUD Department, contact Jeanie Mabry.
With a focus on children, the Polk County Housing Authority works hard to make their apartments safe and welcoming. “We feel like we provide a valuable service to the community and we try to make this a good place to live for people. We do criminal background checks and work with the police to try to keep it a decent place to live. Our hearts are really for the children. Each year, for the past 10 years or so, we purchase school supplies for all the children residents. We also found a source to buy children’s books that we give to the kids. Many of these meet the accelerated reading program at the school,” Terrell explained.
In addition to the apartments, the Polk County Housing Authority also has a community room that is available to be rented out for birthday parties, concerts, family reunions and baby showers. The weekly driver’s test is also given there. To book the room, contact Dixie Schrader at 479.394.1569, ext. 303.
The Polk County Housing Authority is inspected by independent HUD contractors who check the apartments and ensure they are kept to a certain standard. Polk County Housing Authority, and their seven employees, four of whom work in the office and three maintenance men, David White, Richard Walters, and Walter Frost, maintain the 180 apartments across the county, and are proud to have been ranked a high performer for many years. This assists in helping them obtain better grants and makes the lives of the residents so much better.