Remembering Mayor Menino, and a Housing Story

This week on the three-year anniversary of his passing, I’m remembering the life of my former boss and friend, Mayor Tom Menino. His commitment to constituent service is a lifelong inspiration to me, and it was an honor to serve in his administration as his Director of the Rental Housing Resource Center.

Housing safety and affordability is a right I believe should be afforded to all Boston residents. As we talk about how we can make District 2 a great place to live for all residents, I’m reminded of a story I want to share with you when Mayor Menino and I worked together to make a difference in one of Boston’s neighborhoods.

As Director of the Rental Housing Resource Center, it was my job to identify and bring to the Mayor’s attention conditions that led to foreclosures, evictions, and suspicious lending practices. That kind of business created havoc in the city, people were suffering, and we needed to think outside the box and take action fast. As a member of the Mayor’s Foreclosure Intervention Team, I had the chance to help lead the turnaround. Hendry Street in Dorchester was at the epicenter of a series of challenges: troubled by crime, drugs, and a series of foreclosures.

The house at 37 Hendry Street was known for these issues. I would walk through the neighborhood, knocking on doors and talking with neighbors who would share their stories, and I would offer my help. One day, I was invited into 37 Hendry Street. The atmosphere was tense that day; a group of people inside blocked us from leaving, and we were able to leave only after negotiating permission. Outside, a police officer saw me and my colleague, and warned us we were in danger.

This was a trend I could not let stand. People were desperate and hurting. I elevated it to the Mayor’s attention, and returned with the Mayor himself. The massive collaborative response that ensued helped transform peoples’ lives, and the neighborhood, as has been documented by many local news sources.

That’s the spirit of constituent service that it takes to make a difference: street by street, home by home, neighbor by neighbor. I’m grateful to have played a part in the turnaround at Hendry Street, for the collective work of my team at the Rental Housing Resource Center, and for Mayor Menino’s commitment. Safe, stable housing is a cornerstone of what it takes to thrive as a resident. I’ll never forget the work that it took, and what it will take to make sure that every Bostonian has the same opportunity.