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Employee Spotlight: Catherine Lee

Title: GHHI Jackson Outcome Broker
Hometown: Jackson, MS via Birmingham, AL
Education: Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning (Jackson State University); Bachelor of Arts in Communication (University of Tampa)
Dog or Cat Person: Both (she has two dogs and one cat)

Catherine Lee was an instrumental in GHHI Jackson’s launch well before she officially joined the team. As special projects officer for Jackson, MS Mayor Harvey Johnson, she coordinated the initial meetings and ultimate compact signing with the national GHHI office and recruited local partners. She even attended GHHI’s 2012 Executive Leadership Institute in Chicago.

After Mayor Johnson left office, Catherine joined Midtown Partners where she managed housing and neighborhood development programming, working closely with the newly formed GHHI Jackson as a unit production partner. Being an early supporter paid off, as Catherine was recruited for GHHI Jackson’s outcome broker position in October 2014. As outcome broker, she works with local government, nonprofit organizations and community leaders to formulate and implement the GHHI model.

“I felt like I would make a bigger impact with GHHI,” Catherine said. “I love working directly with clients, but I found a lot of barriers that I couldn’t change. A family came to my office one day looking for a place to rent because their home was infested with bed bugs and they couldn’t afford pest services. They felt leaving was there only option, even if it meant walking away from all of their belongings and ruining their credit. I wanted to do more for them, and as part of GHHI, I can make a difference.”

1. What have you learned in your role at GHHI?

I feel like I learn something new every day. I’ve gotten to learn so much more about the actual inspection and repair process of housing, and have especially learned a lot about energy efficiency. I didn’t know much about all of that before I started, like what the standards are, the best building materials to use, etc. I’ve also discovered a lot of resources and ideas that I myself want to use. I went to a utility showcase and learned about efficiency programs, and thought ‘man I need to call my energy company and get them to do a free audit!’ I didn’t know that was an option for me.

2. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far at GHHI?

GHHI Jackson is providing technical assistance and workforce training resources to support Mayor Yarber’s plans for the Jackson Gateway Project, which is a combination of neighborhood revitalization resources that includes comprehensive housing repair. We hosted a comprehensive assessment training session in April, and 21 housing inspectors and contractors (from both the public and private sector) signed up. That’s a huge victory for capacity building efforts here.

3. What are some of your “other duties as assigned”?

I want to be a problem solver for our partnering organizations, so I find myself telling them “please let me know how I can help, whatever the issue is” on a regular basis. Recently one of those tasks was collecting green cleaning supplies on behalf of the City of Jackson from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which in practice was loading heavy boxes of glass vinegar bottles into a van in a warehouse.

I also think GHHI Jackson is able to catalyze innovative collaborative work with our partners, even things that go in that “other” category, because we have a successful model.  In a recent unit production meeting, Voice of Calvary Ministries discussed their work with a veterans counseling program, and Jackson Housing Authority was able to relay information about the VASH vouchers they have.  I’m proud that we were able to connect these organizations to improve delivery of services that are reducing veterans’ homelessness in Jackson.

4. Do you play a musical instrument?

I have no musical skills what so ever. I like to go see and hear live music, especially Phish. We plan our vacations around concerts. This summer, we’re traveling to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead.

5. What is your favorite travel spot?

Florida panhandle area. There’s a scenic highway, 30-A, there are a ton of nice beaches around there. Seaside was the town featured in “The Truman Show” and is one of my favorite places to go. I used to go there as a kid because my grandparents lived nearby.

6. What do you do when you’re not at work?

I am a member of the 2014-2015 class of the Leadership Greater Jackson program, so a lot of my extra time recently has been spent working on my class project with a nonprofit called Springboard to Opportunities. Springboard’s mission is to connect families living in affordable housing with resources that help them advance in school, work and life. My group is working with middle school and high school students in two multifamily properties in to complete a service learning project—the youth have identified community needs at both apartment complexes and raised funds to meet those needs by organizing a 5K run/walk. We raised enough funds for every household in the complex to get bags of household items, plan summer enrichment programs for the kids and give a donation to Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital.

7. Finish this sentence: People would be surprised if they knew that I…

like comic books. When I started to watch “The Walking Dead,” I looked into graphic novels and went down the rabbit hole of comics. “Saga” and “The Manhattan Projects” are two of my current favorites.

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