Darrell Irions is nationally recognized as one of the housing industry’s leading experts. As Chief Executive Office of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority in Florida, Irions’ primary responsibility is to oversee the provision of quality, affordable housing to individuals and families in need. Understanding that enhancing and promoting resident self-sufficiency also is an important part of the Housing Authority's mission, Darrell Irions also strives to put in place programs that can help empower residents and change perceptions about public housing. Under Irions' leadership, the Section 3 program at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority has become a national model, moving beyond merely complying with federally mandated requirements to truly embodying the program's spirit.
The purpose of the Section 3 program is to provide job training, employment, and contract opportunities for low or very-low income residents in connection with projects and activities in their neighborhoods. After noticing a decline in resident and business participation in the Section 3 program, Darrell Irions allocated $59,500 of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority's 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant funding to create a proactive resident outreach and skills assessment initiative. Known as the Section 3 Resident Skills Assessment program, this one-year initiative was designed to augment the existing Section 3 program by identifying and assisting public housing residents who were ready, willing, and able to work.
The Housing Authority's contractor, Catholic Charities, worked with 47 public housing families to provide skills assessments, job training, and job placement services. As a result, 14 residents found permanent jobs. Darrell Irions is proud of the Section 3 Resident Skills Assessment program, knowing that it was a first step in changing the decades-old "cradle-to-grave" mindset for public housing residents who are willing to take a leap of faith and expand their horizons. Lauded by the housing industry, the initiative received two prestigious awards: the 2010 Nan McKay & Associates Excellence in Housing Award and the 2010 Best Practices Award from the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.