Family smiling at Disneyworld

Women Who Lead – Lucinda Phillips, Area Director, Mercy Housing California

“Every adventure requires a first step.” – Alice in Wonderland

The first thing you need to know about Mercy Housing’s Area Director, Lucinda Phillips, is that she loves all things “Disney.” Ask her who her favorite character is, and she’ll be quick to answer, “I have too many favorites. I love them all.”

Lucinda Head Shot
Lucinda, Area Director, MHC

Growing up in Southern California, Lucinda had no idea that she would one day be an Area Director for a nonprofit affordable housing organization. Living at the apartment complex her partner’s grandmother owned gave her an early look at all the hard work that goes into managing a community. Lucinda and her partner would even help collect rent and call vendors when someone had a work order – but like many of us, she had no idea what she wanted to do when she was older.

When she was 17 years old, Lucinda started working at Joann Fabrics. It was her first job, and before she knew it, she was promoted to a managerial role. “I had a really strong work ethic,” she said, “but not a whole lot of experience.” Then she met a woman named Zoya, and soon her entire life started to change.

Family Ties

Lucinda’s cousin encouraged her to apply for a job with Mercy Housing. “We were having one of those heart-to-heart conversations, and she was like, ‘what do you want to do with your life?” Lucinda explained, “and I’m like, I want to work at my fabric store forever. And she was like, ‘no, this is not a path for you.”

During this conversation, Lucinda realized that she wanted to do something that involved helping people in a way that she wasn’t sure existed. Her cousin happened to work for Mercy Housing at the time and said, “I think you would really love Mercy Housing.”

Not long after their talk, Lucinda’s phone rang. Zoya was on the other end of the phone and told her she had received her resume and wanted to meet her.

A New Chapter Begins

“I was 22 when I started working at Mercy Housing. I was really young and had no clue what I was doing,” Lucinda explained. “Zoya was the person that hired me, and I kind of noticed that she took other assistants under her wing and molded them.”

She became Zoya’s assistant, which was a similar experience to being in a classroom again. “Zoya was very meticulous, and I learned the perfect way of doing resident files and regulatory compliance,” Lucinda said. “I learned about the families and the property, and I got really interested in other projects.”

Lucinda had no plans to stay at Mercy Housing beyond a year. She thought she would gain some experience and then move on. But life can work in mysterious ways, and much to her surprise, affordable housing became her passion.

As Zoya’s assistant, Lucinda’s responsibilities began to increase, along with her knowledge about affordable housing. “I started gaining more and more knowledge about what affordable housing was like; what it was really about. I developed all those basic skills that everybody needs to be a property manager.”

Building a Community

Mental health awareness has always been important to Lucinda. And with the responsibility of managing five properties, she knows that achieving good health both mentally and physically starts with access to stable housing. Providing residents services including, Out-of-School-Time programming, yoga, walking clubs, and women’s and men’s groups provide residents with the chance to get together and build new connections and socialize, are just a handful of programs Lucinda helps drive among her properties.

“For residents, having stability isn’t all about them…it’s that they are able to give their children the opportunity to move forward in a supportive community. And then to see the amazing jobs they are doing in our community, like working for inner-city youth programs.”

Women Who Lead

When talking about the last almost 18 years with Mercy Housing, the words “grace,” “comfort,” and “opportunity” were first to come to mind for Lucinda. “To have that grace and comfort – you don’t have to be perfect. And I feel really blessed – I literally knew nothing. I didn’t even know what my basic resident move-in forms were, but I felt like people did take the time to teach me because I wanted to know.”

Lucinda found a mentor in Zoya, and together they created career goals for her to meet and succeed. She has taken advantage of every opportunity presented to her over the years. “I really do feel like people took the time to teach me my goals, so when I had a goal, they were like, ‘ok, let’s get you the experience you want!”

“We encourage women to be leaders. That’s something that I’ve really valued about Mercy.”

Dreams Come True (Beyond Disney)

Family celebrating the holidays
Matching pajamas for the holidays

It has now been almost 18 years since Lucinda received that phone call. Today she is an Area Director of Operations for five Mercy Housing properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. She supervises staff and works closely with the property managers at the five family and permanent supportive properties she oversees.

On May 17, 2021, Lucinda and her wife, Heather, celebrated the formal adoption of their three children – siblings Candace, Camiya, and Mercedes. The family also moved into a new home, where they look forward to making memories to last a lifetime.

The next adventure for this family of five? A trip to Disneyland, of course.