It is a very special occasion when someone is recognized by both their organization and their peers for excelling at fulfilling the company’s mission. Terrence James, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) Admissions Manager, was acknowledged for his genuine compassion and dedication toward the HCHA mission, its staff, and clients, by being voted as the HCHA 2016 Employee of the Year.

“He’s the type of employee that makes HCHA look good.” One employee noted on their nomination form. Mr. James began his career with HCHA in 2007 working as an Intake Specialist and in Portability and then in 2015, James became the new HCV Admission Manager. “I saw something great in Terrance based on his work ethic and performance in other departments. I knew with proper guidance, he would be great at this new role. Looking back, I couldn’t be more proud that we gave him this opportunity,” said Debra McCray, Director of the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

“I’ve seen him stay at the intake desk assisting large volumes of clients and managing even larger volumes of phone calls while never running out of care and patience for each person. In many ways, Terrance exceeds the requirements and expectations for this award, and I am more than pleased to nominate him,” one of co-worker noted on their nomination form.

James’ job responsibilities are to manage the admissions process for one of the largest HUD programs that assist the disabled, homeless, elderly, veterans and those facing homelessness through HCHA for Harris County residents. Mr. James is a conduit between the Authority, the clients and federal and state laws that regulate the HCV program, its waiting list, and the admission process.

“Terrance has the most positive attitude that I have seen from a person with his type of workload. If he is not conducting a briefing; he is fielding questions at the front desk; or giving motivational speeches to prospective clients… He is truly dedicated to the clients of this program.” a member of the HCHA leadership team noted on their comment card.

James’ performance demonstrates a strong commitment to providing the best customer service possible.  As the 2016 Employee of the Year, James is known for a unique passion for his work that shines through his dedication to excellence for his clients and the Authority.

 “My clients are fairly new to the program, so they rely heavily on me to provide them with complete and accurate information regarding their application, required documents, and forms, and to simply guide them through the process,” James said.

On the surface, this seems simple but the volume behind it makes it complicated requiring excellent technical and interpersonal skills. For example, in 2016, HCHA opened its HCV waiting list for the first time in 8 years for 3 days and received over 24,000 applicants. Of those applications, only 5,000 were selected through an electronic lottery process to be placed on a new waiting list. James will be the person on the front line helping these 5,000 applicants over the next couple of years try and obtain a Housing Choice Voucher.

 “My past circumstances motivate me to do something for those who do their best to be self-sufficient but are still unable to afford a decent place to live on their own,” James said. “I have been through some of the same situations that I hear every day from clients and I’m honored to play a part in helping them to gain the support they need to be successful… support that my mother did not have available to her when I was young. I feel a sense of responsibility to be good at what I do and to provide good support and information. I want to make sure that everyone I encounter has an opportunity to improve their current situation and for those who are able, reach self-sufficiency in the future.”

When asked about his reaction after learning that he was voted as the 2016 Employee of the Year by his peers and leadership, he stated, “It was a surprise!”

“Everyone here at HCHA works hard and there are many of my co-workers who I felt deserved this honor. It was a big surprise for me when my name was called,” James said. “I’m thankful.”

Others receiving annual awards were (from left to right): Timika Simmons, Director of Public Affairs – Innovation Award; Cindy Vance, Intake Specialist – Commitment to Excellence Award; Charity Debose, VASH Manager – Dream Team Award, Horace Allison, CEO; Terrance James, Admissions Manager – Employee of the Year; Kathrine Escamilla, VASH Program Coordinator – Dream Team Award; Corey MacAllister, Temporary VASH Clerk – Dream Team Award; Christina Wright, Temporary VASH Clerk – Dream Team Award featured with CEO, Horace Allison.

HCHA would like like to thank its entire staff for all of their hard work in 2016 and is looking forward to a,Better…bolder… 2017!”



Story by: Lubna Qadri, Intern, University of Houston

Photo by: Eriel Chambers, Intern, University of Houston