Headshot of smiling woman, Kai Bluford, who is our Resident Services Coordinator

Three Questions for Kai Bluford

Kai Bluford is a Resident Services Coordinator at Mercy Housing’s Madonna Residences in San Francisco.

What drew you to this line of work?
It’s part of my family background. I was a latchkey kid; my parents went to work and school full time, so I was raised by my grandma and my aunt. My grandma, Mother Bluford, was the “Mother of The Church,” so she was always big on feeding, community, and love from a religious point of view. My aunt was a nurse practitioner and the entrepreneur of a few businesses, and she was always focused on what we could do to fix the community. I’ve been taking care of seniors since I was young, so this was a natural fit for me. Before I joined Mercy Housing this past February, I was doing eligibility assessments for Medi-Cal in Contra Costa County. I felt like I could serve more people in need in a higher capacity in San Francisco, which is home to me. I wanted to pay homage and do that.

How do you build community at Madonna Residences?
Residents here are transitioning from being homeless to having stable living conditions. Some are dealing with food insecurity, so we have a food bank, and I make sure to touch base with people when I see them to make sure they’re eating well. I do a lot of one-on-one service, but I also like to catch residents in groups of two or three, gathered together talking, and share where they can get their COVID-19 vaccine or a test, or talk about what programs we’re offering that week. We have a weekly sewing class, and I’m bringing in someone to teach classes on technology to help them stay current and stay engaged. If I don’t speak the resident’s language, I’ll sometimes ask another resident to interpret, to build that sense of community. I make sure everyone gets a card on their birthday – just little things to show them I’m here for them.

Another big part of my role is serving as a bridge to other resources. The other day I ran into one of the residents and asked him how he’d been eating, and he let me know his in-home healthcare provider had a medical emergency and hadn’t been able to work with him for two weeks. I started making calls – to his social worker, to Medi-Cal – asking, “who can I get to support this resident?” Within 24 hours I found someone to spend a few hours with him over the weekend. Residents care about maintaining their independence, so we want to help connect them to the services that help them do that.

What works well about the Mercy Housing model of service-enriched housing?
I think the Resident Services position is so effective because we can work in collaboration with the Property Management team to make sure residents are getting what they need to stay housed and healthy. People have so many issues besides housing – to be able to bridge the gap and find resources for everyone, that’s the best thing permanent supportive housing can do.