Helping others motivates Housing Authority director

NEIGHBORS

July 10, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WITH HER QUICK smile, ready wit and floppy dreadlocks, Pat Holden Croslan does not have the look of a heartless landlady. She is, however, responsible for 1,104 residences and about 2,800 residents, and repercussions almost are inevitable.

"No one in their right mind takes a job like this and expects to win a popularity contest," said Croslan, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA).

Her ability to take the heat might have its roots in her upbringing. Croslan was born and raised in very humble surroundings in Henderson, N.C.

"Being the oldest of nine children, with both parents working, you learn to take care of people," she said. "In North Carolina, there was this atmosphere of helping people, of looking out for others. A neighbor always seemed to be there."

Despite her modest roots, she managed to earn a degree in economics and worked in a New York City investment counseling firm. But she wasn't comfortable there. Earlier, while attending the State University of New York, she had an internship at the Department of Development at New Rochelle. So, she quit New York City and returned to New Rochelle to work on the federally subsidized housing program there.

"I felt the work was more rewarding because it was for people who needed it," she said. "In New York [City], I reinvested funds for other people, not real exciting work.

"I think that if you're getting paid to do something, it's best to be doing something that helps people."

After directing housing authorities in New York and Connecticut, she got the Annapolis job in January 1998. At that point, HACA had a Housing and Urban Development score of 46 out of 100 points on meeting the highest standards of the federal government. Croslan set to work immediately, making tough personnel moves and strictly applying the regulations. HUD's most recent score for the agency was 97.75.

She also gets high marks from the board of commissioners that oversees the Housing Authority. In addition to HUD, Croslan answers to that board, which is appointed by the mayor and city council.

The gap between public housing and the rest of the city is vast. Bridging that gulf is one of her missions. "If I have to, I'll go to a meeting and explain what we do even if there's only one person there," she said

She seems to show no sign of growing weary of the uphill battle, of dealing with decaying infrastructure, of not having enough funding, of tolerating the inevitable squawking, some of it politically tinged.

She likes to point, instead, to some of the little victories. One of them is an ambitious computer-learning program that has attracted the serious attention of scores of youngsters. There are three computer labs in Housing Authority buildings - two of them with a total of 20 PCs donated by USinternetworking.

USi's chairman and CEO, Christopher McCleary, asked Croslan what else his company could do, and she said she would like to have in-home PCs for her most dedicated residents, complete with phone lines, color printer and furnishings. Sure, said McCleary, and he pledged five PCs a month for a year.

"He also provided a server so lab users could have fast access to the Internet and a resident Web site, mentors and outstanding ongoing support," Croslan said.

"After one conversation with Pat Croslan last summer, I knew this was someone with whom we wanted to work," McCleary said. "USi's partnership with the Annapolis Housing Authority is succeeding in large part because of Pat's vision, focus and determination.

"She is devoted to improving the lives of HACA residents through access to technology, and USi has been happy to provide the equipment and employee mentors. Lots of people have great ideas, but few are as good as Pat at follow-through."

Midsummer night's auction

A round of golf with former Washington Redskins Charles Mann and Art Monk will be auctioned off at A Midsummer Night's Dream, a fund-raiser from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday at the Radisson Hotel off Riva Road.

Proceeds will benefit USiConnects, USinternetworking's employee-managed charitable organization. Among its beneficiaries is the Housing Authority program.

Auction items include laser vision correction surgery, vacation packages, gym and spa memberships, and a baseball signed by Cal Ripken Jr. Tickets are $75.

Information: 877-738-7448.

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