Tell us about your work experience.
Immediately before signing on with Nan McKay, I was working at Access Living, which is a center for independent living in Chicago, focused on serving people with disabilities. At Access Living I was a housing coordinator for the (now-defunct) Homelessness Prevention/Rapid Re-Housing Program. My job there was to work with families and individuals to get current on back rents, or, failing that, to assist them in finding new homes with very little time and even fewer resources. It was the very picture of a challenging but extremely rewarding experience.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Prior to my job at Access Living, I had worked on a campaign to raise awareness of lead paint poisoning in Chicago. This was an initiative through Loyola University’s school of law. It may seem odd that a law school would care about lead paint, but the reality is that lead paint exposure leads to damage to the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control and is strongly associated with juvenile criminality. After the grant that funded my position ended, I moved to Access Living.
How many years have you been at NMA? How many years in the industry?
I began at NMA just under three years ago. I would say I began in the industry with my position at Loyola in 2008.
My B.A. is in international studies/human rights studies from the University of Dayton (GO Flyers!).
What’s one topic you’re most passionate about in the affordable housing industry?
I am very passionate about the rights of people with disabilities. There is a much larger percentage of people with disabilities in low-income housing than in American society in general; I think the last time I looked it was something like 30 percent of subsidized housing participants vs. around 10 percent of the general public. That’s a wide gap. As a result, I am especially careful when training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations because it’s just so important for building strong relationships between PHAs and the communities they serve.
What's your favorite part about your job?
I love teaching people things. I always have.
Describe your typical workday?
I’m a trainer for NMA; I don’t have typical work days.
Tell us about a successful project that you had a part in.
At Access Living I played a part in helping the Chicago Housing Authority lease up about 100 Non-Elderly Disabled vouchers in a very short period of time. I think it was around three months. As anyone can tell you, that’s no mean feat, even for a trained housing specialist, working as I was at an agency that had always been on the outside looking in and suddenly having to learn and apply HUD and CHA rules was quite the challenge. I know that at least ten or twenty of those families were homeless when they leased up. There’s nothing more gratifying than that.
Are you affiliated with any outside organizations?
I have in the past worked for Greenpeace, MoveOn.org, and the DNC. I remain active with those organizations.
Hobbies outside of work?
I listen to a lot of rock and roll, and I am trying to whittle away at the giant stack of books I keep promising myself I’m going to read someday.
Meet NMA trainer Adam Ensalaco at the 2015 NMA and GoSection8 Housing Conference this October! Limited free one-hour consulting sessions will be available to conference participants on a first-come, first-served basis starting next week. Must be registered to sign up for a session. Register online or email email@example.com for more information.