Chester Housing Authority's multitude of programs were on display this week when U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon paid a visit to authority housing sites across the city. Authority Executive Director Steven Fischer welcomed Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore, to the CHA office in the 1100 block of Avenue of the States before the tour stretching to Wellington Ridge in the West End and concluding at the Ruth L. Bennett Community Farm. "We simply extended an invitation to our new Congress member to familiarize herself with what we're doing with federal money," said Fischer, speaking at the Bennett Community Farm. "I think it's important for our elected representative to have hopefully as intimate a knowledge as possible with what we're doing out here with federal funds.
"The tour covered much of the resident programs the authority has tackled in recent years. The first stop at the William Penn Homes included a visit to the Red Brick Café, a restaurant located in the development opened in 2018. The Penn Homes are the first recipient of total camera coverage among CHA properties, which Fischer said has dropped crime rates "to almost nothing." Fischer also cited resident job training that has resulted in an unspecified employment boost among CHA residents."(A) conversation I was having with (Fischer) was about the benefits we get when we layer services onto public housing," said Scanlon. "Providing health services, providing childcare services – you get people where they live and you kind of leverage your benefits.
I think it's a great trend and I plan to support it however I can." The tour concluded at the Bennett Community Farm during its Thursday afternoon sale hours. The roughly decade-old community gardening project has evolved into a 2-acre community farm with weekly Thursday sale hours from June through October.
"We feel unique in a lot of ways because we've developed offshoots to the housing program, none more impressive than where we're standing right now, having developed this community farm," Fischer said. "We're on the map and somebody in Washington is looking at us," said Malik Savage, assistant farm manager. "We're trying to feed our communities, get some sustainable food and teach people how to live better. "Scanlon said she has observed an uptick in urban farming over the last 15 years during previous work in public interest law.
"I worked with low-income communities around the country and we saw more and more community farming," she said. "It's a great place for kids to come to learn about connections to food, to interact with grandparents for examples. It's a nice inter-generational connector. We keep hearing about having green space reduces stress and hopes people cope better with the pressures of modern life."