The Only Constant Thing, Episode 1: A daughter of Penn Plaza

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Crystal Jennings’ life was thrust into Pittsburgh’s affordable housing saga in July 2015. Her father, Jerome, was one of more than 200 Penn Plaza residents forced to move from the apartment complex.

At the time, her father was in failing health. He died of liver cancer in May 2018, a little more than a year after being displaced. However, Crystal’s ties to the Penn Plaza community would only grow stronger over time. She is a core organizer for Penn Plaza Support and Action and helps take care of former residents as if they’re family.

It can be as simple as a phone call to check in, Crystal said. But as displacement often separates residents from amenities that were once in walking distance, she routinely helps former residents with tasks like going to the grocery store or the doctor. She’s also helped residents move, sometimes multiple times. For about six weeks, Crystal was paid through grant funding. But much of her work has been as a volunteer.

“I just tell myself if I just keep pouring into others, I’ll be blessed in the long run. I’ll be blessed on the back end,” she said. “And my blessings come in different ways, in different people.”

Crystal’s story is the first episode in a new PublicSource documentary video series called The Only Constant Thing.

It was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, who coined the phrase, "Change is the only constant in life."

And for many in the Pittsburgh region, change is a certainty. Redevelopment happens. Neighborhood cultures shift. What’s home today may not be home tomorrow. This series (produced in tandem with our Develop PGH coverage) will document what those changes look like at the personal level, through the voices of residents in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

How are you experiencing change in your corner of the Pittsburgh region? Share your story with PublicSource’s visual storyteller/producer Ryan Loew at ryan@publicsource.org.

Ryan Loew is PublicSource's visual storyteller/producer. He can be reached on Twitter at @RyanLoew.

Develop PGH has been made possible with funding from The Heinz Endowments.

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