PEABODY — Managing federally subsidized, scattered-site housing for an elderly, student and low-income population wasn't exactly a natural extension of Nancy Porcaro's academic background.

But the English major from the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered a career she genuinely enjoyed in 1980 when she became an on-site resident manager for First Realty Management Co. in Boston.

"I enjoyed being able to help people who don't necessarily have enough money to afford mainstream housing, to help them and make their home a decent place to live and really give them ownership," Porcaro said. "When I sort of got that in my blood, it was hard to get it out."

Her career in housing management and social services spans 30 years and recently brought Porcaro to Peabody, where she took over last month as executive director of Citizens for Adequate Housing. Porcaro succeeded Nancy Crowder, who led the organization for 23 years.

Citizens for Adequate Housing offers emergency shelter at Inn Between; sober-living residences for families coping with addictions at Inn Transition; and affordable housing through Inn Homes, which develops and manages 16 apartments in five buildings.

Before Peabody, Porcaro acquired a variety of experience in New York and the Boston area. In New York City, she worked for Common Ground Community as director of a 416-unit supportive housing building that served the formerly homeless, low-income residents, the elderly and individuals with special needs. From April 2009 until coming to Peabody, she managed more than 200 units of low-income housing in Chelsea.

For Citizens for Adequate Housing, Porcaro promised to advance the organization's mission of ending homelessness "one family at a time." The nonprofit group is supported by federal and state sources, as well as private donations.

"Citizens for Adequate Housing is all about support," she said. "It's all about taking someone who needs help and giving it to them in a way that is nurturing yet fosters independence."

Help comes in an array of programming that Porcaro called "building blocks."

"We work with people through their journey," she said, "and they come out the other side independent, viable beings in this world."

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