We brought transformational change to Hannahville with some of the projects the board approved. Such projects included streets, roads and driveway lights and housing construction to name a few.
In January of 1990, I was hired as the Housing Director of a ten (10) unit housing project funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for the Hannahville Indian Community. The program was the first real housing program implemented since the Michigan Potawatomi Housing Authority (MPHA), a separate corporate entity of the Hannahville Indian Community, had received funding for a fifteen (15) unit scattered housing project built in the early 1970s. The project was abandoned for nearly twenty years and had severe compliance issues that needed to be resolved before our tribe could apply for any housing programs offered by HUD. In order for this to happen, we needed to reorganize the Michigan Potawatomi Housing Authority.
The first few months were particularly difficult because we were just beginning to get re-organized as an operating board attempting to move forward and there was little direction given other than to collect the rent for the ten MSHDA homes.
Street lights were installed down Hannahville, 38th Road and Casino Lane.
We realized that the other fifteen HUD homes needed attention but there was little revenue to support any kind of rehabilitation or replacement. After appealing with the Regional Office in Chicago, We realized the Regional Director of HUD was not going to budge on the collecting of back rents and reestablishing the rent rolls based on 30 % of the household income. I repeatedly asked for ways to settle this 20-year compliance issue without penalizing those who lived in the HUD units, as most of the houses were in dire need of repairs, and in some cases were an outright health hazard to occupy. The director would not accept anything less than the original offer and we volleyed back and for months until I picked up a video camera and recorded the condition of the units, first hand. I went to Chicago and played my tape for the director and his staff and one of his senior staff members (Mr. Paul K Bird, whom I will always be indebted to for speaking on our behalf) became visibly angry and could not believe no one was working with us. Mr. Bird kept encouraging me and helped me understand “the paper chase” game I needed to play to get the results I desired. Unfortunately, Mr. Bird passed away and progress seemed to come to a complete stop.
We started to look at other agencies for funding and I wrote to dozens of non-profits (like the Kellogg Foundation and others) looking for any kind of donations or funding to help with our dilemma. We received our first small grant from the Great Lakes Intertribal council for 1,500 to perform radon testing in selected tribal homes. This was quite an accomplishment for me since I had never written any grants or even thought I would be in a position to get money for programs. I continued to write agencies and foundations and then the tribe moved the casino to the highway, with slot machines. We put together maintenance and repair program budget for 250,000 to be considered by the tribal council to help the housing board with some of the funding issues it was facing. I cannot give answers as to why they said no but it took me three tries to get them to say yes. That was the best thing they could have done for us at that time because it showed HUD that we were also committed to financially to a housing program.