Life has not been easy for Paula Jones, but she never gave up hope of turning her life around.
For Jones, that meant getting a job to support herself and her two children.
Jones moved into Section 8 housing with the Copperas Cove Housing Authority in 2002. As a condition of living in the low-income housing, she was required to either work a minimum of 20 hours per week or volunteer a minimum of eight hours in the community.
“It was not a huge requirement. I loved it because it made me get up and be independent and that was important for me and my daughter,” Jones said. “As long as I did my part, (the housing authority) would work with me if I was trying. Even though my situation did not look good on the outside, I was striving to find a job. I walked all over Copperas Cove, going from business to business trying to find a job.”
Jones found employment at the Cactus Motel. But after a year, she lost her job when the company could not afford to keep her on staff, she said. She did community service work at the Boys & Girls Club and was hired. But again, she worked only a year before being laid off.
“They laid off the newest employees first and that always seemed to be me,” Jones said. “It was another 6-7 years before I got another job. But I kept doing my community service work. I never gave up.”
Jones started doing community service at the YMCA and was hired a few months later in June 2013. Despite her history, she is not nervous about getting laid off from the YMCA as her one-year anniversary approaches.
“Not this go-round. This one is different,” Jones said. “It lets me be me and my job is fabulous.”
The community service requirement of Section 8 housing became a HUD standard about 12 years ago, said Inez Faison, director of the Copperas Cove Housing Authority.
“It is an avenue to go and assist other people with the hope that it will lead to a full- or part-time job,” she said. “I give (tenants) guidelines and places to volunteer. They must meet the agency’s requirements as well.”
Faison admits that while the opportunities to gain employment through volunteer service are available, the program does not always yield jobs.
“Paula was diligent in her community service work. I am pleased when we get people like Paula who take advantage of the opportunity and get themselves a job,” Faison said.