Post leadership and on-post housing officials listened to concerns of housing residents during a town hall, Jan. 10.
Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, Army Training Center and Fort Jackson commander, Col. Ryan Hanson, garrison commander and representatives from the Garrison Housing Office and Fort Jackson Family Homes listened to concerns of housing residents in person and through social media.
This was the first time Kelly held a housing town hall. He previously walked through housing and spoke to residents directly.
“I hope that tonight we could spend some time doing it to find out how we can make Fort Jackson better,” Kelly said. “I want to listen, and I want to learn … I want you to leave without a doubt that you have been heard. Some of you might say you’ve been heard before. Not by me.”
Kelly said to the housing residents in attendance and those watching online that the post must partner with Balfour Beatty while acknowledging that “our housing is not where I would like it to be. I want you to know that our community is not exactly where I want it to be. Even if we have a good place, I want to make it the best.”
“That is my commitment to you,” he added.
He also acknowledged that housing must do better with maintenance, communication and transparency.
Despite all this, Kelly was “fired up” about the direction on-post housing was going.
Also, attending his first housing town hall was Chuck Houston, the post’s housing chief. Houston came to Fort Jackson in August from the Redstone Arsenal, Alabama
He spoke about the housing mayors program. The purpose of the program is to communicate with the residents and develop ideas for improvement and bring it to the housing office and Fort Jackson Family Homes. Other goals of the program are for the mayors to be a voice for the housing areas and participation in yard of the month and other beautification activities. Currently there are mayors in six of the eight on-post housing communities.
James Harper, with Fort Jackson Family Homes, also known as Balfour Beatty, gave an overview of the current state of the post’s on-post housing. Of the 850 homes on post, 804 are available to rent, and 41 offline. Harper said there are currently 233 families on the waiting list. He added the average amount of time to turn a home, or complete Between Occupancy Maintenance is 13 days.
Harper said the Fiscal Year 2023 efforts included demolishing 31 legacy units and building 31 new three- and four-bedroom units.
Judy Boley, manager for Fort Jackson Family Homes, gave an operations overview of on-post housing. A part of the update was a reminder of the 24-hour call center. Residents can call (803) 787-6416 to immediately schedule emergency/urgent work orders. Routine work orders can be placed via the portal or mobile application. If maintenance issues are not resolved residents can call a last resort housing hotline at (803) 751-HELP (4357), calls to the number will notify the installation operations office and garrison command team.
The housing office is also an advocate for residents, Houston said.
“I ask you give us a chance to intervene on your behalf before filing an ICE complaint,” he said. “We are your advocates. Don’t sit there in silence and suffer.”
Boley also said the Self-Help Store, Building F1230 near Ivy Road, will be open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but closed daily from 1-2 p.m. for lunch. Residents should call (803) 787-6416 for more information.
The panel also spoke about the recent housing satisfaction survey that indicated Fort Jackson had an overall score of 59.4 down from 73.3 for a score in the very poor category. This put Fort Jackson second to last in overall satisfaction in the Army, Houston said.
“Truth of the matter is we have to do better,” Kelly said about the results. “What I gather from the survey is that those who took it was a small sample size. It was a vocal minority. It is why we take it and listen. People who took it told us we need to do better.”
Boley then talked about the survey results and highlighted the plan for improvements. The action plan included a 12-step plan to keep in contact with residents.
Once the floor was turned over to residents to air their questions, housing officials were barraged with complaints ranging from maintenance issues to communication lapses and infrastructure concerns.
One such issue is residents sending messages to maintenance and not receiving answers back.
“We are training them and coaching them on proper follow up,” Boley responded, “and if there are issues, and thing happen, they need to either reach out to our loca
l admin or just call you and say, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to be late.’”
Other concerns aired were about problem mitigation, fixing sidewalks near schools, and providing military police to direct traffic before school.
The post will do anything to keep families safe included putting them in on-post lodging if necessary.
“Safety is key,” Hanson said about the government’s willingness to move families to on-post lodging if serious problems exist in their homes.
To learn more about the improvement plan and the town hall in its entirety, visit: https://www.facebook.com/FortJacksonCommandingGeneral/videos/912811683422497.