Following in the footsteps of Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow in political science Nay Petrucelli, Ryan Hebert is working with Housing Action Illinois, a statewide housing coalition, to help protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing.
After a year of rigorous course work through the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development and the Politics and Government Department, Hebert was placed with Housing Action in Chicago for his 11 months of professional practice. He works with Director of Training and Technical Assistance David Young in navigating Housing Action’s new role as a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Counseling Intermediary. As a HUD Intermediary, Housing Action oversees 12 affiliate organizations, 10 in Illinois and two in Indiana.
“I personally have been involved in every step of the grant reporting process for all 12 affiliates for the past fiscal year and have gone on numerous site visits at current and prospective affiliate organizations,” Hebert said. “Housing Action is looking to expand its affiliate network to 23 organizations in its application for the 2016 HUD Comprehensive Housing Counseling Notice of Funding Availability, and I have been involved in the vetting process for the additional affiliates. These trips have taken me to Peoria, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Indianapolis; and all around Chicagoland.”
As a Fellow, Hebert is helping his host organization in applying for housing counseling funds from HUD and then disbursing these funds among sub-grantees, as well as providing training and technical assistance. HUD housing counseling funds are only available to HUD-certified housing counseling agencies and even after attaining that HUD certification there is no guarantee of receiving HUD funds.
Outside of the HUD Intermediary, Hebert has helped write a request for proposals for a $500,000 housing counseling grant administered by Housing Action on behalf of Citibank. Hebert also aided in drafting a scoring rubric and collecting data for all of the applicant organizations. With Hebert’s assistance, the organization awarded 12 grants of $37,500 each to support housing counseling services. This Citibank funding came at a crucial time as the Illinois state budget crisis has suspended certain sources of housing funds.
“I was finally able to mail out requisitions of over $80,000 in checks to five organizations,” said Hebert. “That money will directly support housing counselors and allow them to keep providing their much-needed services. That’s a good feeling.”
Hebert also planned a session on sustainable housing development for Housing Action’s annual conference in Bloomington in November. He recruited four speakers specializing in green building practices, alternative energy, climate change politics, and energy efficiency.
“It was an incredibly challenging and satisfying experience coordinating the needs and logistics of four speakers within the greater needs of the conference to make it all come together to one meaningful workshop,” Hebert said. “Being a part of this recruitment process was one of the most fun and personally satisfying things I’ve done in my time here at Housing Action. The opportunity to connect green building and climate change professionals with housing developers from all over the state got me excited. Finally, I had an opportunity in my professional life to directly contribute to an issue that I am passionate about.”
Hebert attributes his love for community development to the dedicated faculty and staff at the Stevenson Center: “Dr. Beck’s community development seminar in the first semester of on-campus study opened my mind to the vast range of activities involved in comprehensive community development,” Hebert said regarding Stevenson Center Director Frank Beck’s course. “Through course work and coordinating my placement with Housing Action Illinois, the Stevenson Center has helped me realize that a career in community and economic development will make good use of my ability to adapt quickly, operate independently and as a member of a team, and to continuously learn new systems and industry jargon. Hebert served two terms with AmeriCorps before coming to Illinois State.
If you know of organizations in the U.S. hoping to advance their missions in new ways, a Fellow might be the perfect fit. Visit the Stevenson Center to learn more!