July 28, 2017

When Disaster Strikes, a Hero Answers the Call

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When floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters force Americans to flee their home, HUD’s dedicated employees are among the first to the scene to help affected families find shelter.

Tony Landecker, a Portfolio Manager in HUD’s Minneapolis-St. Paul field office, is responsible for assisting with the management of the local housing stock. Last year, however, Tony’s focus turned to Baton Rouge when the area experienced historic flooding. Tony left his city and family to spend months helping those who had been forced from their home.

In Baton Rouge, Tony was assigned to the Celtic Shelter, where he led a team tasked with finding permanent housing for 130 families that were placed in a temporary shelter – which was scheduled to close in one week.  This didn’t deter Tony and his team. Together with Red Cross volunteers, FEMA volunteers, other HUD employees, members of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, and Catholic Charities, Tony and his team identified vacant housing units by calling hundreds of apartment complexes, property management companies and individual landlords. Once they found the units, the team made rental assistance available, expedited the housing inspection process, and even helped the families move. As a group, before the temporary shelter closed, they found permanent housing solutions for every family.

“My experience working in disaster recovery has  affected me in profound ways,” Tony said. “The opportunity to help is incredibly gratifying. I will always remember the survivors we were able to assist, and the hope and promise our HUD team was able to provide.”

For going above and beyond the call of duty in a difficult situation, Tony was named the Minnesota Civil Servant of the Year by the Federal Executive Board.

Photo (Left to Right): Minneapolis Public Housing Director Lucia Clausen, Minneapolis Public Housing Division Director Dana Kitchen, Minnesota Federal Executive Board Civil Servant of the Year Tony Landecker, and Minneapolis Field Office Director Michele K. Smith.

In honor of “American Heroes Week,” HUD recognizes Tony for being a real-life hero and for helping others find the comfort of a home in the aftermath of a disaster.

July 27, 2017

A Fair Housing Hero on the Frontlines

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Photo: Susie McClannahan.

It is hard to believe housing discrimination still exists in America nearly 50 years after the Fair Housing Act was signed into law. But the battle against unfair housing practices in neighborhoods across this country continues, even in our own nation’s capital.

Susie McClannahan is a fair housing hero who is on the frontlines of fighting housing discrimination.  As a Fair Housing Intake and Grant Coordinator with the Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC, Susie answered her phone a few months ago knowing it could be one of the many clients she helps every day. On the other end of the line was an older, disabled woman   who needed help.  For months, she had been asking her landlord to fix a broken accessible door opener to her apartment building. The issue had made it difficult for her to leave her apartment to run errands, and forced her to wait outside during extreme weather. To go about her daily life, she had to rely on others to open the door for her.

Acting on the woman’s behalf, Susie sent a request for reasonable accommodation to the landlord, which resulted in the quick repair of the automated door opener. The resident was absolutely elated to be able to enter and exit her own building without the help of others.  Another small victory for fairness.

“Many people who experience housing discrimination aren’t aware of their rights. I frequently answer calls from individuals that know an experience they had was unethical, but they aren’t sure whether or not it was illegal,” Susie said. “By informing people about their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and local laws, they can take action to address the harm they’ve experienced and ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The Equal Rights Center is a HUD fair housing partner. The group recently launched a new advice column where Susie and her colleagues respond to concerns expressed by the public.  For helping others every day, and for representing the highest ideals of fairness in housing, Susie is a hero. But she sees it differently.

“The real heroes are the people I serve every day,” she said. “These heroes courageously report housing discrimination; they fight to be treated with respect and dignity and ensure others don’t have to experience the trauma that they went through. I am so grateful to our Greater Washington community of superheroes that stand on the frontlines to build a more equitable region, free of housing discrimination.”