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‘Humans of HUD’ project features Long Beach residents and their stories

New website seeks to highlight journeys and successes of formerly homeless individuals

Kelly+and+Souny%2C+featured+on+the+new+Humans+of+HUD+project%2C+recount+the+day+they+found+out+they+were+selected+for+an+apartment+at+Century+Villages+at+Cabrillo+%28CVC%29.+Their+limited+income+and+student+loans+had+made+it+impossible+for+them+to+get+approved+for+an+apartment.+CVC+provides+662+units+of+permanent+supportive+housing+across+the+community.+Every+year%2C+CVC+provides+housing+for+2%2C199+people%2C+including+1%2C042+veterans+and+600+families+with+children.+The+27-acre+campus+has+benefited+from+%2466+million+in+Low-Income+Housing+Tax+Credits+and+nearly+%2418+million+in+HUD+Capital+Investment.
Kelly and Souny, featured on the new Humans of HUD project, recount the day they found out they were selected for an apartment at Century Villages at Cabrillo (CVC). Their limited income and student loans had made it impossible for them to get approved for an apartment. CVC provides 662 units of permanent supportive housing across the community. Every year, CVC provides housing for 2,199 people, including 1,042 veterans and 600 families with children. The 27-acre campus has benefited from $66 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and nearly $18 million in HUD Capital Investment.

Kelly and Souny, featured on the new Humans of HUD project, recount the day they found out they were selected for an apartment at Century Villages at Cabrillo (CVC). Their limited income and student loans had made it impossible for them to get approved for an apartment. CVC provides 662 units of permanent supportive housing across the community. Every year, CVC provides housing for 2,199 people, including 1,042 veterans and 600 families with children. The 27-acre campus has benefited from $66 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and nearly $18 million in HUD Capital Investment.

Courtesy Humans of HUD website

Courtesy Humans of HUD website

Kelly and Souny, featured on the new Humans of HUD project, recount the day they found out they were selected for an apartment at Century Villages at Cabrillo (CVC). Their limited income and student loans had made it impossible for them to get approved for an apartment. CVC provides 662 units of permanent supportive housing across the community. Every year, CVC provides housing for 2,199 people, including 1,042 veterans and 600 families with children. The 27-acre campus has benefited from $66 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and nearly $18 million in HUD Capital Investment.

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“We got the apartment! We just stood there in the aisle at Walmart crying together. It was the most touching time in my life, except for my daughter’s birth.”

That’s it. Just a snapshot into some of the biggest moments of people’s lives. This moment and others like it are being featured on the recently launched “Humans of HUD” website, a new project by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

One brief quote and a few thousand words more reflected through a photograph of each individual included on the new website went live online Oct. 16 in an effort to “highlight the trials and triumphs of the people HUD serves,” according to a HUD press release.

The memory captured in the quote above, of the family crying in the aisle at Walmart in the moments after learning they would be soon be moving into their very own apartment, is Kelly’s. He, his wife, Souny, and their infant daughter, found a home at Century Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach approximately a year ago, after being homeless for more than six months.

“When you come from being homeless and someone tells you you’re going to have a two-bedroom apartment and your daughter is going to have her own bedroom, I think the majority of people would break down and cry,” Kelly told the Signal Tribune Oct. 25.

The brainchild of HUD Public Affairs Specialist April Brown, the Humans of HUD project is about, in her words, “doing a better job of telling the story of the people that we serve.”

Brown said she worked closely with HUD Deputy Press Secretary Mallory Blount to launch Humans of HUD after realizing that there was a lot of focus on the data, statistics, funding numbers, etc. associated with HUD’s work, but not enough focus on the individuals directly impacted by their work.

“We weren’t talking enough about the people that these programs affect,” Brown said.

The initial launch of the Humans of HUD project included 12 of the approximately 60 stories submitted from across the country, and three of the stories already published come from Long Beach.

Brown said six Long Beach stories were submitted altogether so far, and the remaining stories not yet published– as well as new ones that can be submitted at any time to HUD as the project continues– will continue to be rolled out on an ongoing basis.

In response to the launch of this project, online publication CityLab staff writer Kriston Capps penned “The Problem with ‘Humans of HUD,’” in which he explores ulterior motives of the project and questions the impact it has on the people featured through the lens of today’s political and cultural context. The article is available online at citylab.com.

Kelly said that he thinks Humans of HUD is “awesome.”

“And not just because we’re in it,” he said, laughing. “It shows that it takes regular people– not people who just know people in places, like a friend or relative who works with HUD or anything like that. Just regular people who are struggling and who want to be better and are willing to do whatever it takes […] and [Humans of HUD] shows that.”

According to the HUD press release, the collection of photos and stories are part of an ongoing conversation with “everyday Americans who are working to overcome homelessness, drug addiction, natural disasters, among other challenges.”

“Humans of HUD exhibits the best part of our agency– the people we serve through our programs, grants and initiatives,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in the press release. “This is storytelling at its core. People have really opened up to us in a way that brings new meaning and purpose to our work at HUD.”

Kelly and Souny met volunteering to feed the homeless in their community with their church, years before they experienced homelessness. Kelly said Souny was a big part of the reason he volunteered as much as he did back then, and it was during that time period when their lives took an unexpected turn.

Kelly said he remembers walking down the street right after buying a brand new cell phone. He said some people walked by and someone said, “Nice phone.” Kelly said “thank you,” and he didn’t realize that he was about to be mugged. A baseball bat to the head sent him into a three-day coma and a 21-day hospital stay. The injury cost him his ability to work.

Kelly said the quote chosen from him for the website is 100-percent true, and he thinks back on that moment– crying in the aisle in Walmart with his wife– when things seem difficult as a way to stay focused on the positive things in his life.

“The part where we are really crying– that totally happened,” he said. “We’re a couple aisles apart, and then I hear [Souny] go, ‘Yes!’ […] and that just made me cry more because I hadn’t heard her be happy like that for, like, six months because she was always stressed […] and I just felt like, ‘Finally!’ […] Something was really working in our favor, and we were really blessed. And I never want to lose that feeling again.”

Individuals interested in sharing their story with Humans of HUD can submit it to [email protected] To visit the website, go to hud.gov/HumansofHUD.

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‘Humans of HUD’ project features Long Beach residents and their stories