Housing counseling is “almost like helping someone walk through the American dream—but it’s not all about homeownership,” says Kesha Chatman, the Division Operating Officer at Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “You are counseling on their finances, you are counseling on making sure people can advocate for themselves.”

In 2017, Kesha Chatman began teaching homebuyer classes with Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and realized she had a passion for helping walk people through the process of homebuying—a major part of peoples’ life journeys. Kesha has learned that housing counseling often goes beyond the individual situation or immediate goals of a client: “once you teach people certain things, then they become influential to the community around them.”

As the Division Operating Officer for St. Clair County, Kesha Chatman oversees day-to-day operations of the Urban League’s Illinois-based office. The Urban League is dedicated to empowering community members to secure economic self-reliance, social equality, and civil rights. Chatman spearheads services for housing advocacy, homeownership trainings, and the development of economic opportunities for individuals and families. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis has been a member organization of Housing Action Illinois for the better part of a decade, and last year, Kesha and her colleagues attended and presented at Housing Action’s annual conference.  There, they learned about Housing Action’s training program for counselors seeking to become HUD-certified. As a HUD-approved agency, the Urban League is seeking to get more HUD-Certified Housing Counselors in their Illinois office, and after attending Housing Action’s conference, Kesha decided to take the Career Path course in January 2023.

Kesha Chatman, Division Operating Officer

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Kesha says she loved the interactivity and the community environment that the virtual training was able to achieve. Chatman says “People were sharing their stories and their backgrounds, and it allowed us to develop a support community to learn together.” Following the session, she joined study groups that were recommended by the trainers, which she is finding to be active in sharing helpful tools and information as well as real scenarios that one might encounter as a housing counselor. She hopes to take the exam in the next month–but even after passing, she might take the Career Path training again, as she feels she would learn something new and different every time.

The Career Path training is divided into six different sessions, all covering portions of the HUD Housing Counselor Certification Exam. By focusing on one topic each day and including knowledge checks, the material covered becomes more easily digestible and applicable to not only the exam, but also to the real life situations that housing counselors face after becoming certified.

Kesha highly encourages anyone considering a career in housing counseling or wanting to pass the HUD Certification Exam to attend a Housing Counseling Career Path training with Housing Action.

She also invites those in the housing counseling industry to count all of their clients’ wins, big and small, explaining that housing counseling is not an “‘assembly line’ type of process. Everybody’s case is different. Everybody has different crises and situations and it takes time, mental capability, and knowledge to walk each person through the process of everybody being successful.” A simple acknowledgment of successes along the way in achieving an individual’s overarching goal can help change perspectives, from crossing items and tasks off a checklist to realizing the upward journey. As a counselor, Chatman wants to “impact peoples’ lives, so helping them to just mentally change their mindset on the positive things is a win.”