In February, after meeting with residents and visiting privatized housing at various installations, Army senor leaders issued a call to action within the Army to take steps to correct housing issues.
"We owe our Soldiers and their Families safe, high-quality housing," then Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, said. "That did not happen in a troubling number of cases and that is unacceptable. We have to do better, and we will."
Fort Leonard Wood responded to the call by holding their first housing town hall Feb. 27 to allow residents to speak directly with senior leadership. Town halls continued quarterly thereafter hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Commander, Col. Eric Towns.
"We brought all the chains of command from across post into the room, opened it up to residents, and that really set the foundation here on Fort Leonard Wood," Towns said. "That enabled us to open the dialogue with the residents to determine what their concerns with housing were."
About 250 service members, families and leadership attended the first town hall.
The town halls were only one step in the plan to address concerns here. Each chain of command was instructed to conduct home visits with 100 percent of their people to allow residents to voice their concerns. All 1,806 homes on post were visited and feedback was gathered to improve the processes, Towns said.
Those visits will continue as part of a new policy set by the commanding general titled Command Policy 14, Command Visitation Program.
Within that policy, leadership has been instructed to visit a Soldier's home within the first 60 days of occupancy, and every six months thereafter "in order to improve the overall welfare of our military community" by ensuring families have a "safe, clean living environment."
These visits are about ensuring residents are happy with their home and are not experiencing any issues, Towns said. These visits are not only for residents on post but off post, as well.
"No matter where our Soldiers and their families live, their chains of command have a responsibility to ensure their homes are being kept to a standard by their landlords," Towns added.
A 24-hour hotline was also established as another avenue for residents to voice their concerns directly to the Garrison Housing Office.
The Garrison Emergency Operation Center Housing Hotline can be reached at 573.329.3926, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The housing contractor at Fort Leonard Wood, Balfour Beatty, also offers RentCafé, a phone application and online platform for residents found at https://www.rentcafe.com/residentservices/apartmentsforrent/userlogin.aspx.
Residents can submit a work order, track the progress and even verify when the work was complete, said Luis Rosario-Febus, Housing Division chief.
"Service members will need to register to the portal and they can submit and track work orders on their home computers or mobile phones," he said. "Reservists, foreign military personnel, civilians, and retirees living on post can pay their rent on the mobile phone, as well. Active-duty personnel pay their rent through allotment, but still can use the RentCafé portal to access and submit work orders."
All of these engagements have provided feedback to justify two new hires in the Directorate of Public Works housing department.
The new employees are responsible for 100 percent engagement with life, health and safety issues and 100 percent verification of all maintenance that occurs during change of occupancy, according to Rosario-Febus.
Balfour Beatty also hired two new employees who are focused on quality assurance, quality control and resident satisfaction.
Addressing housing concerns and ensuring resident satisfaction is a top priority.
"One of my chief responsibilities is to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents here at Fort Leonard Wood," Towns said. "I take that responsibility very seriously."