Thursday, April 29, 2010

Housing Unlimited—Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg’s Remarks at the 15th Anniversary Celebration

Last night, I had the honor of introducing our County Executive Ike Leggett at Housing Unlimited’s 15th Anniversary celebration held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda. Housing Unlimited is dedicated to providing safe, affordable homes throughout Montgomery County for adults with psychiatric disabilities. Over the past 15 years, HUI has provided permanent supported independent housing for nearly 300 Montgomery County residents with psychiatric disabilities. With a waiting list of more than 250 individuals, HUI continues its work to meet the ever-growing need. My remarks from last night’s celebration are presented below.

“It is my distinct pleasure to introduce my colleague and friend, Ike Leggett, tonight.

I can think of no one more deserving of your recognition for Ike has always been a strong advocate for those less fortunate. He truly understands the dignity and hope that a stable and comfortable home setting provides to those challenged by a mental health disability.

As many of you know, my inspiration for mental health advocacy and public service is my adult son, Walter, who suffers from chronic schizophrenia.

A few months back, in one of those rare coherent moments, he and I talked about his aspirations for the future. I asked Walter what he wanted in the years ahead. He responded he wanted a job, a new wardrobe and his own apartment. He said: “Mom, I want to be able to come home and find contentment in my books, my music and in a meal I prepare for myself. I want to go asleep each night knowing I’ll still have my own place the next day and that my home will remain my castle forever.”

That’s the real truth about those afflicted with mental illness. They just want a normal life. They deserve to live their lives with pride and dignity for they should never feel either helpless or hopeless. Ike understands this.

Throughout his entire career, Mr. Leggett, has been, and continues to be, a strong champion for the construction, management and preservation of affordable housing in Montgomery County. One of his first efforts after taking office in 2006 was to significantly raise the funding for the County’s Housing Initiative Fund (HIF) from $18 million to $58 million. The HIF finances the development of low to moderate income housing, special needs and elderly housing in Montgomery County.

Ike created an Affordable Housing Task Force, comprised of housing experts in Montgomery County to create strategies to increase the County’s supply of affordable, special needs and workforce housing. A good number of the 17 recommendations produced by the task force have been implemented.

Ike has increased the annual total affordable housing units produced and preserved to over 2,000 units per year. He created the Short-Term Property Acquisition and Rehabilitation Fund which made $100 million revolving funds available for affordable housing.

These accomplishments speak to his focus on housing and let’s not forget his budgets for FY08, 09, 10 and 11 where he has placed a prioritization on the needs of our most vulnerable, including the mentally ill. And he has done this despite the incredible fiscal climate that we face.

As I said earlier, Ike has been steadfast in his support of affordable housing and our entire community is grateful for his generous spirit, kind heart and consistent leadership. It is with enthusiasm and affection that I ask our County Executive, Ike Leggett, to join me on the stage at this time.”

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