Dear friends, partners, and colleagues,
Recent events, from the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, to the death of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement, to the resulting public outcry and unrest, are painful reminders that a legacy of segregation, discrimination, and racism is still deeply embedded in the communities where we live, work, and serve. In this moment of national reckoning, we know we need to focus not just on how these injustices make us feel, but what we can do to change them.
A year ago, our team embarked on a soul-searching effort to better define who we are, what we do, and why our work is important. Part of that process involved identifying the core values that we strive to uphold each day, and that we turn to in these moments of crisis and uncertainty:
- Thorough: We are focused on a long-term solution over a quick fix.
- Transparent: Our work is behind the scenes, but open to all.
- Nimble: Needs and goals change. So do we.
- Collaborative: The challenges we face are too big to face alone.
- Compassionate: The dignity and worth of those we serve influence every decision.
These values were the guiding principles used in crafting our team’s mission: We help Kansans access the safe, affordable housing they need and the dignity they deserve. Embedded in these words is our conviction that all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or familial status, deserve the safety, security, and dignity of home.
Beyond defining our values and mission, our efforts included tangible changes to ensure that our work is transparent and that our services are accessible to the Kansans who need them most:
- We changed our outreach strategy, inviting more partnership, more collaboration, and more public engagement.
- We developed a Code of Ethics to guide our work, established a confidential process for stakeholders and community members to report potential wrongdoing, and appointed an Ethics Officer to handle concerns.
- We revamped our Diversity and Inclusion Committee and committed to welcoming the team’s guidance as we explore staff training and development opportunities, examine our recruitment practices, and reflect on how we can better administer our programs with integrity, equity, and compassion.
We’re proud of the efforts we’ve undertaken so far, but we know they’re not enough. This moment in our nation’s history illustrates that we all need to do more to dismantle the traditions and institutions that privilege some while disadvantaging others.
Our nation’s housing history is scarred by a legacy of racism. Much of the inequality we witness today can be traced, in part, to discriminatory housing practices. At the same time, we also recognize that expanding access to home and crafting equitable housing programs and policies can provide valuable opportunities to address historic injustices and correct course. In fact, similar unrest in response to discrimination in the 1960s led to the creation of some of the first state housing agencies. Promoting affordable and equitable housing opportunities has been and remains a catalyst for healing. As we look ahead, we’re committed to seeking diverse perspectives in drafting our guiding policies and programs, to collaborating with communities that have historically been left behind, and to administering our programs with a goal of helping to close the opportunity gap, not widen it.
Moments like this demand that we pause, reflect, and commit to doing better. We’re reminded that the landmark Fair Housing Act, which guides our work today, was passed during a dark period in our country’s struggle for equality and civil rights, following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advocates, activists, and leaders banded together to ensure that Dr. King’s legacy lived on, even in the midst of unspeakable grief and sadness. Fifty-two years later, we know that work is not finished, and we remain committed to that vision. Our work to unlock home for Kansans is more important than ever, and we pledge to continue it.
– Ryan Vincent