What the Heck Do You Do?

What is a Director of Resident Services?

by Robin Watson

It comes up often - when meeting new people, while filling out a questionnaire, during an interview... Moreover, it sounds like a simple question: "What do you do?" My first answer is easy. I am a Director of Resident Services. The replies are usually similar: "Okaaaaay" or "Wow. that's quite a title". I understand. My job title is not one like that of a t.v. repairman or doctor or chef. People really have no idea what I do just by hearing my job title. So, usually I will offer more information by adding that I work in housing with people who are over 50, elderly, or disabled. The next responses are often the same too: "Oh... good for you" or " How nice". But people still don't know what I do.

Actually, what I do varies considerably from day to day and week to week, depending upon the needs of the people I serve. Ultimately, I do whatever needs to be done to allow the residents of the building to live as independently as possible and with the best quality of life as possible while remaining in their own apartments. If you think about it, with 407 apartments, that is many different people with many different needs. I wear many different hats. However, that still does not clarify what I do. More specifically, several more familiar titles could fall under my "Director of Resident Services" title, because I provide many familiar services.

I serve as an Activities Director, providing a wide range of recreational events and activities to address the social, physical, educational, and interpersonal needs of interested residents. I also produce a monthly newsletter that is distributed to all apartments and maintain several bulletin boards to keep residents informed of monthly opportunities and management news. With over 30 ongoing activities, this alone would be overwhelming without help. Thankfully, I am also Volunteer Coordinator and Program Administrator for more than 60 residents who volunteer their time and efforts to help with these events and keep things running smoothly. As I am most visible to the residents in this aspect of my job, many of them think this is all I do. However, this is only the beginning.

I am a Crisis Intervention Provider for residents who are in crisis and need emergency intervention. That may entail calling and ambulance, the police, a mental health provider, or a friend or family member. Often times, this requires some follow-up as a Case Manager. I need to be aware of residents' usual patterns of behavior or levels of need and to recognize any significant change in these patterns. I may be required to place a referral for new services, or for a greater level of ongoing service, in order to avert a potential crisis or avoid future crisis situations. I serve as a Liaison to outside service providers to keep them informed of what we see in these residents when they are in their own homes - outside of their service provider's realm - and to Advocate on the resident's behalf to fulfill unmet needs.

I am a Teacher and Librarian, providing and/or distributing a wide variety of information on available services and benefits, consumer rights, medical and legal issues, and other pertinent topics. I assist residents in finding answers to their questions. I am a Counselor, available to listen and to offer opinions and solutions to problems, and I occasionally act as Mediator in resolving conflicts between residents.

I am Bookkeeper for 3 financial accounts and assist with annual budgeting for the events and activities. I act as a sort of Administrative Assistant to the building management, contacting residents who are in violation of their leases or who are behind in their rents. I coordinate staff scheduling so that vacations and sick days are covered. I inventory and order office supplies and call for repair when office equipment fails. Occasionally, I show our model apartment and help people fill out applications. I hold monthly orientations to ensure that our new Residents are informed and comfortable in their new homes. I spend a few hours a week as Receptionist, answering phones, sending out applications, assisting residents, and occasionally I may file and type.

There are lots of people who do the same job but with different titles. You may hear us called Service Coordinators or Resident Advisors, and the specifics may vary a bit; but generally we are dedicated to helping people with special needs live the best quality of life possible in their chosen home. The job may not be well known or pay as well as a doctor, and not many children would say "I want to be a Director of Resident Services when I grow up", but the path in my life has led me here, and I am glad for that.

Robin Watson is Director of Resident Services at Pinnacle Place Apartments, located at 919 South Clinton Avenue, Rochester, New York 14620. For more information about Pinnacle Place, please call (716)442-9440.

This article was posted here in July 2000.

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