Highlands Residential Services operates and manages housing units in Algood, Baxter, Celina, Cookeville, Gainesboro and Monterey. Across our neighborhoods, we operate 607 units, including 497 Public Housing units, 30 Low Income Housing Tax Credit units, and 80 Project-Based Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) units for the elderly and the disabled. Our units are designed to give our region’s residents a place to belong while they get on their feet again.
Individuals and families must qualify for the homes and programs offered by Highlands Residential Services. Each prospective resident must complete an application process and must be recertified annually once accepted. HRS receives funding for programs and other needs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and each of our families also contributes toward keeping and maintaining our programs through their monthly rent payments.
Our mission is "To provide safe, decent and affordable housing; to create opportunities for residents’ self-sufficiency and economic independence; and to assure fiscal integrity by all program participants."
To that end, Highlands Residential Services offers a wide variety of programs and services aimed at helping our residents to prosper in the future.
For adults, we offer informational meetings featuring area resources, home-buyer counseling classes, tobacco cessation classes, and much more. Mentoring programs as well as recreational and social activities are provided for our elderly or disabled residents. For all residents, we host block parties and holiday celebrations and produce a newsletter full of helpful information that is widely read and enjoyed in our communities.
Teenagers in our HRS Cookeville neighborhoods are invited to participate in Teens Need Training, a series of after-school events and activities offering after-school programs, a summer day camp and community volunteer projects all funded through community partnerships with the Cookeville Police Department, the Cookeville Police Athletic League, and other businesses and organizations. KIDS Matter is an after-school reading program for HRS youth in grades K - 4 who reside in Cookeville.
Our youngest residents enjoy our youth programs, and our children in kindergarten through 12th grades are annually invited to participate in a poster contest, “What Home Means to Me,” sponsored by the National Association of Housing Officials and Redevelopment. Two of our children have earned National recognition in this contest — Helen Priester in 2009 and Kayla Padgett in 2013, as the National Grand Prize winner. Their poster designs were included in calendars that were distributed nationwide.
“Each of our programs helps to build a stronger community through partnerships and friendships by sharing information and building a larger network of support across the Upper Cumberland region,” said HRS Executive Director C. Dow Harris. “We work to instill community-minded values in our children and adolescents through tutoring, service, and fun and games, and we help their parents and guardians find the support and services they need to build a better future.”
Highlands Residential Services, formerly Cookeville Housing Authority, was established on October 29, 1952, and construction began on our first low-income housing development, Perry Morgan Homes, in 1957. Currently, we operate 607 units, including 497 Public Housing units, 30 Low Income Housing Tax Credit units, and 80 Project-Based Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) units for the elderly and the disabled.
While our core mission has always been to help area residents and families find homes, we have grown in our more than 60 years to offer a much wider variety of community-building services, including job and skills training classes for adults, home-buyer classes in partnership with various local banks, special events for children and adolescents, mentoring programs for elderly and disabled residents, block parties, a host of recreational and social activities, and much more.
And while we originally served only Cookeville, today we support and strengthen the residents of Algood, Baxter, Celina, Gainesboro and Monterey, which means that our reach extends across the Tennessee Highlands region.
To reflect our growing outreach and service area, we have recently changed our name to Highlands Residential Services (HRS).
“At Highlands Residential Services, we are more than housing. We are building on community to make our neighborhoods, towns and our region stronger, and our new name and image reflect that,” said C. Dow Harris, Highlands Residential Services executive director.
Our new name and look denote not only our commitment to maintaining the foundation we have already laid, but also to building on that foundation. In recent months, HRS staff members have spent time talking to hundreds of residents to learn how to better help our neighborhoods reach their full potential, and we have commissioned surveys of residents and the local public to determine potential areas of improvement for our image and services.
“The residents in each of the towns we occupy deserve the highest level of commitment and treatment we can offer, and we’re dedicated to continuing that,” said Highlands Residential Services Board Chair Dr. Robert Owens. “We operate throughout the Highlands, and we are proud of all of our communities.”
Board of Commissioners
Highlands Residential Services is comprised of a seven-member board of commissioners. The board meets regularly to establish policies, approve expenditures and provide guidance to the agency.
Highlands Residential Services currently employs 23 people, including managers, coordinators and maintenance. HRS utilizes one part-time year round AmeriCorps member and two summer AmeriCorps members.