SLU PIC Planning Office
My first day at St. Lawrence County’s planning office was one of the best ‘first days’ I have had. I lost my way around the large fortress known as 48 Court Street. There are three large buildings that take this name, but fortunately I found my way to where I was supposed to be. I was greeted by an office of three men- all of whom were more than welcoming. I was shown to my open-space desk. It is near a bright, sunny window where an office plant is trying to make its recovery from the long winter. I was given my tasks and overall plan of action in a nicely organized instruction sheet created by my supervisor; she is away for the moment and will return on my third Monday in the office.
I quickly settled in and reviewed my project tasks which focused on the Direct Homeownership Assistance Program (DHAP). DHAP helps first time homebuyers receive financial aid to buy their first homes. My project goal is to find the impacts of the program and maybe some improvements by conducting a survey that will be sent out to former program participants. While reading this introduction, I was visited by each member of the ‘current’ Planning Office- much of the office is away. Each man gave me insight into the current project on the table. There was a large grant given to the St. Lawrence Planning Office to help remove or properly cover lead paint within older homes. I was invited to sit in on a meeting which began to organize the fight against lead in the St. Lawrence County. As the day went on, I began to feel quite confident within my work environment. The day closed, and I was told to bring things to brighten up my desk… and maybe move it around so I wouldn’t be facing the door.
The next couple of days went by quickly. I settled in and focused on collecting my data on the First Time Homebuyers program. I was scheduled to attend that very class at 8:30 am on Friday. But in the meantime, I tried my best to work efficiently because of how time consuming my task had become. At some point, I began to feel the strain of the computer screen on my eyes, and my stomach was starting to hurt with hunger. Two of my generous office members invited me to take part in their weekly Chinese lunch buffet. I happily agreed. As we passed around the white Chinese-food container I eagerly listened to their stories and advice regarding professional growth and hot topics within the office.
Friday finally arrived and I drove to the St. Lawrence County Housing Council on 19 Main Street. I was given a large book of information about first-time home buying and a folder filled with forms, examples, and detailed figures. Annette Bowman gave a warm welcome to the class of 7 and began to give us an outline about the class we were taking. She told us the pros and cons of buying a home, qualifications of the program, budgets and how to realistically follow them, mortgages and how to calculate your monthly payment, and many more extremely helpful things one should learn before buying a home. After about three and a half hours, we were let out on a lunch break. I walked next door to Nature’s Storehouse and bought a 12oz. coconut & curry soup. I sat outside underneath the shade the awning provided and had my lunch while thinking about the next part of the class. We were going to listen to a home inspector. I wasn’t quite sure how much information we were going to be given by our guest speaker but I was pleasantly surprised. He exceeded expectations. I learned the importance of what to look at when buying a home- the roof’s condition, placement of vents, quality of equipment, how to recognize S.O.S (a suspicious, organic substance), how to identify materials that may have asbestos, and many more serious problems a house can have not seen by the naked eye. At the end of the day, I learned to trust the judgment of a professional and always be open to learning new things.
My first week was filled with new faces and new task. I was told to not be afraid to ask questions and become involved with the projects at hand. I am excited to continue my research, but I am even more excited at the things that I will discover that are not planned for me.