By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetJanuary 28, 2010
The Housing Services Office offers a one-stop shop for all things housing related. Whether a Soldier is looking to rent an apartment or buy a house, the staff at housing services has the answers.
All Soldiers inprocessing to Fort Benning are required to visit the office before going on permissive TDY to find a place to live.
"We know the community," said Pat Burns, chief of housing services. "We have information on new subdivisions, housing that's available, price listings. And we actually go out to the areas to see what they offer.
And they don't limit themselves to only Columbus and Phenix City. Staff members visit Midland, Ga., Harris County, Cusseta, Ga., Salem, Ala., and Fort Mitchell, Ala., among other places. They also provide background on local schools, churches, shopping and events - "anything that would ease their transition into a new community," Burns said. "All of this is to help them get settled."
It's the first place to visit for good reason, said SSG Jon Nicholls, who PCSed from Germany last month.
He returned from holiday leave Jan. 11 and started looking for a house on post Jan. 12 with the help of Chereia House, a housing referral specialist.
It was as stress-free an experience as house hunting can be, said Nicholls, who was happy with his selection of a two-story home in Patton Village.
"She knew the dimensions of the furniture we had coming from Germany, so she did some research and found the houses that had bigger living rooms," he said. "(It was) very helpful because I had no clue. It was my first time in the states in more than seven years. They had really great customer service."
Burns said she remembers moving to post almost 26 years ago and how hard it was finding her way around. That's why the housing office provides so much information, like informing Soldiers if certain areas or real estate agents are off-limits because of crime or poor business practices, she said. They also handle tenant and landlord complaints.
"When they're leaving, we always ask, 'Did you have any problems''" Burns said. "Some may have recommendations."
Those reviews are catalogued so the office can keep track of recurring concerns or positive feedback.
If the Soldier needs more than just information, the staff can handle that, too.
"We counsel the service members - find out what they're willing to spend, whether they're looking for a house or an apartment. We work with them if they have credit issues through no fault of their own," Burns said.
"I've worked in every aspect of housing. It's a quality of life (issue)," she said. "It's making them comfortable and making their families comfortable. If our Soldiers know their family members are in a safe environment, then they can go out and do their mission. They're not worried someone is going to get hurt or there's a problem with their house. They know their family is safe and settled, so it's not an issue."
Things to know...
Office location: Building 2619 in Soldiers' Plaza
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
For more information: 706-545-6610 or 706-545-3921.