Putting Substance Over Spectacle to Help DC Residents Understand the Market
The press release promised free credit reports, a motivational speaker, foreclosure counseling, and a DC United player.* An odd combination to be at the Washington Convention Center on a Saturday afternoon, perhaps?
Not really: The occasion was the Department of Housing and Community Development's second annual DC Housing Expo & Foreclosure. The free, five-hour event saw a steady turnout of District residents seeking advice on home ownership, how to avoid foreclosure, and the resources available to help them. Exhibitors set up their booths in one room, while small-group workshop sessions ran on several different topic tracks, including financial literacy, homeownership, and foreclosure prevention.
Exhibitors ran the gamut of non-profit, government agency, and enterprise. Local leaders like the Latino Economic Development Corporation, Lydia's House, and the DC Language Access Coalition set up camp next to Citibank and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. "There aren't enough people to serve the needs of DC residents,” said Noelle Galos, of the DC Language Access Coalition. “We're here because our community needs us." George Rothman of Manna, Inc., whose three-booth complex saw consistent high traffic, said the "everything under one roof" format made the expo "the primary event for residents and developers alike."
Motivational speaker Willie Jolley, whose recent book, Turn Setbacks into Greenbacks, was floating amongst exhibitors' booths. "In a time of high foreclosure and anxiety, we want to give people the hope to get through this,” he told Housing Complex. Jolley has no personal experience with foreclosure, he said, but losing his job helped him to understand what it felt like to be "broke, busted and disgusted."
Some exhibitors felt the crowd was thinner than last year, but DCHD Director Leila Finucane Edmonds said that not only was she satisfied with the turnout, but that last year's event had increased the use and recognition of services like dchousingsearch.org and the Housing Resource Center counselors to navigate D.C.’s complicated public assistance landscape. "We've seen higher uses of our programs and traffic has been steady," she noted. "In a situation like this, you shouldn't pay for advice."
*Presence unconfirmed. Though a raffle offered four tickets to see DC United play the Seattle Sounders, Housing Complex was unable to spot any player on the roster while in attendance.