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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Suzanne Post, June 23, 2006. Interview U-0178. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Post describes her work with the Metropolitan Housing Commission

Post describes how she became the director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition and what she was able to accomplish during her time there. Based on her earlier work, she brought a clear agenda to the job that she found balanced well with the concerns of the housing advocates she worked with.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Suzanne Post, June 23, 2006. Interview U-0178. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

SARAH THUESEN:
Since you brought it up, I want to talk about the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. When that was founded in '89 or '88—
SUZANNE POST:
I think a few people first started to meet in '88. They were mainly community ministries people and then they got a few more people in as the homeless situation exploded here. Then in '89, they applied for a 501c3 and wrote a grant to the Bingham Foundation for a million dollars for seed money for staff. When I walked off the board, walked off the job of the ACLU, how old was I? I was fifty-seven years old, no visible means of support. I felt great for about two weeks and then I started waking up in a cold sweat. I envisioned myself applying for a job at a convenience store and then I thought, "No, they get shot. You don't want to do that." MHC at about that time got a hundred thou from Bingham, not a million, but a hundred thousand to be used over three years to provide for staffing. A friend of mine who had been meeting with them came over and she said, "Suzy, you need to apply for that job. It's going to be great." I said, "Blanche, I don't know anything about housing." She said, "Yeah, but you're the best organizer in the state." I said, "Blanche, I don't know anything about housing." It just really didn't grab me. She said, "Come on, apply." So I did apply. I got a call. I had an interview with five or six of these lovely people, a couple of whom I knew. They wanted someone to work on contract so that they wouldn't have to pay health insurance. They wanted somebody who would work for twenty-five thousand dollars a year on contract. I talked to them. I said, "You know, I've started a lot of coalitions and I think coalitions can be really effective. I think you're going to find somebody who can do this job." I said, "It's just not me. But thanks for the time and lots of luck." So I came home and about two hours later, the president of the board calls me up. He said, "Suzy, what would it take to get you?" I hadn't even really thought about it. I said, "It would take twenty-five thousand dollars a year. You pay my taxes. You pay health insurance. And the executive committee agrees to meet with me once a week and I don't mean for three months. I mean ad infinitum, because I don't know a damn thing about housing." He said, "Okay." So for two years, we met at a local cafeteria at seven-thirty on Wednesday mornings until about nine, for two years until we got a new president and she didn't want to be bothered getting up that early. It was a shame, because they were getting a lot out of it, they really were.
SARAH THUESEN:
Who all was represented on that executive committee just in sort of general terms? Were they mainly people who worked directly in housing?
SUZANNE POST:
Yeah, mainly people who worked directly in housing, with the exception of the community ministry people who were providing social services to their service area. Plus the executive director of Legal Aid.
SARAH THUESEN:
That was Dennis Bricking.
SUZANNE POST:
Dennis, uh huh. For awhile—well I guess not. I started to say for awhile the director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, but no, he didn't come. It was a pretty motley crew. The city's CDBG director, who was Blanche, she was a really good friend of mine. She and I ran the Impeach Nixon campaign together and a couple of really great antiwar demonstrations. We had an antiwar demonstration that had five thousand people after the Cambodian bombings, which you're probably too young to even remember, but it was pretty terrifying to us that we would go bomb these people. It looks like child's play today compared to what we're doing. It was a good group of people. They were straight. They were committed. The housing people were profoundly housers. A lot of the housing people saw housing as a basic human right and they saw housing as a way for low-income people to accumulate wealth. When I used to hear that, it set my teeth on edge, but over the years, I've come to realize how important that is in terms of having something.
SARAH THUESEN:
Building equity.
SUZANNE POST:
Building equity in your home is accumulating wealth and without that home, you know—.
SARAH THUESEN:
What was the general impulse behind starting the coalition?
SUZANNE POST:
Ronald Reagan and the cutback in housing staff and the homeless, who were becoming more and more visible on ours' and other streets.
SARAH THUESEN:
Was there discussion in any of the initial meetings about housing integration as a concern?
SUZANNE POST:
No, that was mine. I mean, that was my issue.
SARAH THUESEN:
At that time or earlier or both?
SUZANNE POST:
I don't know about earlier, but what followed me into this job was economic and racial equity. So one of the first things I did, I think I worked a year before I did it, I created a Fair Housing Coalition and it is still meeting, not as vigorously as it had when I was the director. What I did was I invited all the organizational members of MHC that had a fair housing bias of some kind, whether it was the Tenants Association; the banks, which are required under the Community Reinvestment Act to loan equally; the Community Action Agency, which was dealing with poor people; the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, in which housing segregation is a no-no; the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission. There were about ten or eleven groups and we met once a month. The purpose of me, why I did this was I thought that it would beneficial for these groups to keep each other posted on what was new in the field, because they were all understaffed and they couldn't know everything there was to know. That was number one. Number two, I thought it would be emotionally beneficial for them to get together with their PEERs, because burnout is so high in so many of these jobs. Thirdly, I thought that it would be beneficial for it to plan a community program every April, which is Fair Housing Month. They've been meeting for fifteen years. I mean, the member ebbs and flows and it's not the same people from every agency, but it has created a presence.
SARAH THUESEN:
Among the folks involved with that, what's the general consensus with regard to how much progress we've made since the open housing movement in terms of housing integration?
SUZANNE POST:
I think that there's generally a consensus that progress has been made. I think that there is a general consensus that some of the big problems, the problems that remain, involve predatory lending is a big one. Foreclosures is a huge problem. I guess those two are sort of on the top of the agenda in terms of: can anybody move where they want to move, where they can afford to move? I think that there's a feeling that that's pretty much okay, but on the other hand, there's real concern, I think and I certainly echo it, that federal programs like Hope VI are just resegregating people.