Kathy Perry seems to know everyone. While giving me a tour of the rapidly-changing Huntersview Housing which rises above the Hunters Point Redevelopment Project, she is frequently stopped by residents who need something from her. She is genuinely patient, and focuses in on each person.
"I'm here to serve," she said.
And serve she does. Kathy is the primary contact for the public housing project's current occupants, assisting with all aspects of the transition into new housing for seventy-one households as part of the Bayview YMCA's on-site service provision.
Residents seem comfortable with her, perhaps because they know she understands them. At one point, Kathy gestures to the Northridge Cooperative Community Housing Project, on the crest of the next hill over, where she raised her own children.
"They went to Malcolm X Academy just over on Harbor Road," she added.
Kathy believes in public housing. She knows firsthand how assistance at the right time in a family's life can make all the difference in that family's future. She also knows how assistance often comes with hard edges.
"It's strange that I love seeing boarded up doors and windows," she said. "But now they're boarded up because the occupants have moved into new housing."
Not long ago, she remembers, there was little else but patched-up housing that, when it was built, wasn't intended to stand so long. Before the reconstruction got underway, boarded up windows usually meant there was a problem for the people inside.
There are still problems. A bus stop kiosk, all frame, no glass, stands in evidence. Colorful flower boxes have been added by residents in memory of JaQuan Rice "GS Dutch," a much-loved resident and talented rapper who was gunned down there on June 25th.
Kathy is in constant motion, as she explains the history and future of what I'm seeing, yet still manages to exude a sense of calm. Standing in the expansive quad where one of the many decaying structures is slated to become her new temporary office, she is at once all the things her job requires: commanding and assured, warm, knowledgeable, compassionate.
Near where her offices will be, community groups are already operating: Brothers Against Guns, HERC, Mothers Against Crime. Law enforcement will have space, too.
The building Kathy is moving to is also home to a youth residents' organization known as WHOP. Under the leadership of Michael Jackson, WHOP is improving the futures of residents through music. A recording studio is a major feature of the operation.
When Michael comes by, Kathy makes sure I know how important his work is, and how a new generation is forging a new path at Huntersview.
Michael said that there are some real generational differences when it comes to advocating for the community at Huntersview, and that the younger folks are proud of being "self-sufficient."
"The people here are beautiful," Kathy says more than once.
As much as she loves the gleaming new housing complexes, she worries about residents still waiting for a transition. The path of construction is physically dividing the hill, and that makes getting a break from it nearly impossible.
It will be several years before all the residential transitions are completed. That's a long time for residents to live in a place that is part construction zone. But until they get in to new apartments, the residents can be comforted by at least one thing: Kathy Perry is there for them.