Verdene Sims has always had a desire to help people, so after retiring from a career in telecommunications, she decided to start doing something entirely different and wanted to commit herself to doing something that would support others. She says, “I wasn’t sure what, and now that I have this space of time, I want to get out and get engaged.” She began looking into credit counseling, but then stumbled across housing counseling.

With experience purchasing and selling a home, renting, and being a landlord, Verdene thought, “Being older and [with] my life experience… I know a little bit about some of these things and maybe this might be something I could be good at and helpful to others in.” Verdene already finds herself being a person her friends and family come to and ask for advice when buying a new house or dealing with a financial situation, so housing counseling seemed like a good fit.

Verdene Sims

Now, having passed the HUD Housing Counselor Certification Exam, Verdene reflects on her process in four steps: Research, Training, Studying, Passing.

Completely new to the industry, Verdene started researching housing counseling and studying for the HUD exam. Using the study modules provided by HUD, Verdene got a basic understanding of the test’s content. She soon stumbled across Housing Action Illinois during and signed up for the Housing Counseling Career Path training that Housing Action Illinois brought in partnership with Moraine Valley Community College in July 2023. After taking the class, Verdene realized there was a lot she still needed to study to be fully prepared for the test. However, these two steps gave Verdene a solid foundation to continue preparing.

Verdene took advice given by Housing Action’s Capacity Building Specialist Wanda Collins to not rely on just the class–to go back, read through the modules and the handbook, and take the practice test provided by HUD. Knowing what works for her, she printed out the module study guides, took notes, and highlighted the pertinent information. She also joined the HUD Housing Counselor Exam Prep Facebook group to gain resources from others studying to pass the exam. After setting a goal to only take the test one time to pass, Verdene dove into these resources to continue her learning. Just a few months after taking the Housing Counseling Career Path training, Verdene passed the exam on her first attempt.

For people thinking of a career in housing counseling or taking the HUD Housing Counseling Certification Exam, Verdene says, “If it’s something you really want to do, definitely put in the time to study and prepare for the test.” She recommends finding out what works for you to make the information stick, and to zone in on the areas you know will be more difficult for you. Take advantage of resources, whether that be a training, the HUD modules and practice exams, or the Facebook group. “Don’t skimp on good old fashioned studying.”

Verdene plans to look for employment at a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency in the near future. Being so new to the industry, Verdene doesn’t know much about the day-to-day of housing counseling, but she expects that it will be “interacting with people who you help [and learning] to document your interactions with people.” Verdene is excited for the opportunity to help others in her retirement. She says, “It is important to me to try to do it. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do…just help folks”.