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"Limited English" program wins Award of Merit

Award from National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO)

SEATTLE — August 3, 2010 — The Seattle Housing Authority was honored on April 23 with an Award of Merit by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).

NAHRO Award

Virginia Felton accepted the NAHRO Award of Merit from the organization’s president, Akinola Popoola.

The award honors the housing authority for its work in developing a program to improve the delivery of information and services to residents, applicants and members of the public whose proficiency in English is limited.

NAHRO’s award program is designed to recognize innovation among housing and community development officials. According to NAHRO President Akinola Popoola, “The best solutions are often local… and they are committed to serving their communities through groundbreaking programs and services that address local needs and opportunities.”

Seattle’s award recognized local efforts to define a comprehensive policy around translation and interpretation, develop ways to inform community members about the availability of these services, and provide resources and training for staff members to improve their ability to provide services to people who do not read or speak English proficiently. So far, more than 200 housing authority staff members have  been trained. New materials included a poster in all offices informing people in multiple languages of interpretation available.

Printed materials were developed to describe how to use The Language Line (the primary online interpretation resource) and how best to communicate with people who speak little or no English. These materials were also prepared in a compact pocket-sized format so that field employees can keep them handy. A special cover sheet in 17 languages is included with important documents so that people whose primary language is not English are informed of translation and interpretation guidelines.

“It has been very rewarding to help our employees gain both confidence and know-how to help clients more effectively,” said Seattle Housing Authority’s Director of Communications Virginia Felton. “It is still a significant challenge, but now we have a few good tools in place.”