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HUD   >   State Information   >   New York   >   Stories   >   2013-02-01
HUD Staffer Goes Above and Beyond Duty to Help Sandy Survivor

Photo (l-r): Ms. Natalia Levin and HUD staffer Ms. La Toya White

Ms. Natalia Levin is a very lucky person. Not because she escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath living in hard-hit Brighton Beach; rather, she’s lucky because she met Ms. La Toya White, a HUD Program Analyst in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. La Toya, while working in Headquarters, volunteered to come up to New York City to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. When she did, she was assigned to work at the FEMA Brighton Beach Disaster Recovery Center in January 2013. There, LaToya ran into Ms. Natalia Levin who was helping Sandy victims from Russia, with little English proficiency, understand their rights and benefits. On one occasion, Ms. Levin came over to the HUD desk where La Toya was sitting and introduced herself, and thanked La Toya for coming to New York City to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Ms. Levin came in daily and would stop by to chat with La Toya. They would talk about the devastation of the superstorm, and more generally about their lives and families. Ms. Levin was from Russia by way of Israel and knew a lot of the victims who had suffered immeasurable losses. Their friendship grew day-by-day and they began to eat lunch together. It was at this point that La Toya discovered Ms. Levin was in desperate need of obtaining adequate and affordable housing. Apparently, Natalia was living in poor housing conditions due to the devastation of the storm. La Toya quickly set about getting her a HUD Housing Choice Voucher. However, La Toya didn’t realize was how difficult and pains-taking the process would be. New York State Homes and Community Renewal had a certain number of Disaster Housing Choice Vouchers for distribution to income eligible Sandy victims, but the process was complicated and the paperwork demanding. Luckily, that didn’t frighten La Toya, who began getting from Ms. Levin all the documents she needed to apply. However, just when she thought she had submitted all the necessary documents she was told that she needed to submit more. Many people at this point would have given up, but not La Toya. Whatever paperwork was asked of Natalia, La Toya helped her get it. In addition, La Toya wrote letters to FEMA and called them to be sure that Ms. Levin’s case would remain a top priority. Then, too complicate matters further, La Toya discovered that Ms. Levin was running out of time because New York State Homes and Community Renewal only had 100 vouchers left before the program closed in January. In the midst of the application process, Ms. Levin suffered a heart attack and required minor heart surgery on January 4, 2013. In spite of this setback, La Toya continued in the quest to obtain the desperately needed housing voucher. With continued perseverance, La Toya managed to get her the very last voucher New York State Homes and Community Renewal had before the program closed. As a result, Ms. Levin found a suitable apartment in her neighborhood that she could afford thanks to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Ms. Levin is so indebted and grateful to La Toya, she considers her “the daughter she never had but prayed for.”