Monday, March 14, 2011

The 'H' in HUD shouldn't mean 'Hokey'.

HUD's image people are getting better at engaging the public online. We're a long way from the June 2, 2003 "Ask the White House" Web chat in which then-Secretary Mel Martinez exchanged banter with "Bloop Zod, King of Mars," in a medium he may have viewed as inevitably silly. (This Archive.org link sometimes provides the dumbfounding transcript from that day.)

HUD officials talk like grownups most of the time online now, but, eeesh, contributors to their new blog need to work a little on the difference between conversational style and talking down. Shantae Goodloe, a "public affairs specialist" with the agency, informed us today that "The H in HUD Can Stand For Health." Last week she informed us that the "H" can stand for "Help."

Below the happy or sententious generalities in the blog posts, there are comments. Some of the comments are your basic undergraduate pontification. But some of the comments are from constituents asking for help. They sound weary, thwarted, bewildered, sometimes poorly educated, but eager for unvarnished specifics. For example, a poster in the "...stand for 'Help'" thread argued with a public affairs rep about whether his family's civil rights complaint had been addressed fairly.

From other HUD blog comments (quoted for their tone -- I don't know if the complaints themselves are fair):
"...My bank Indy-mac will not help us with loan modification...We are being force out of the house so they can auction it out..."
"...We have always worked since we were in high-school. For over a year we have been trying to get into one of the ‘save your home’ programs. We started even before we missed a payment. But we are not eligible for anything. ...So, the biggest regret I may have might just be that I sold our tent and camping equipment two years ago at a yard sale. Spring and summer are coming so we may have a few months to get prepared for winter as we move onto one of our raw property assets and attempt to live off the land. And maybe when winter comes, we might be eligible to sign our last little piece of dirt over to the State and maybe get into one of the entitlement programs..."
"...Dear Sir;
Will me help us, why can’t we find anyone to help us with mobile home lot rental? It say on Huds site that they help low income with rental, but when i try for help they say its only for apartments or houses. We are very low income, and need help, but can’t seem to find it. Will you help us?
Thank you for your time..."
Full points to HUD for letting these comments stand rather than suppressing them. But, now, let's see them get addressed. More important, let's see some work on shortening the distance between the big-picture talk up at headquarters and the practical questions people ask on the ground.

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