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Nonprofit founding executive director receives national recognition 

Jeanette Duncan

Jeanette Duncan.

Jeanette Duncan honored by NeighborWorks America for lifetime contributions to housing, community development

People’s Self-Help Housing‘s Founding Executive Director Jeanette Duncan has been selected as one of the inaugural recipients of the Founder’s Award from congressionally-chartered housing organization NeighborWorks America.

The NeighborWorks Founders Award was established to recognize “Champions of Change” and for their lifetime contributions to housing and community development. The award placed particular focus on “equity, inclusion, integrity, and service.” In this first year, Duncan was selected as one of two recipients of this prestigious national honor.

Duncan was a founder of People’s Self-Help Housing and became the executive director in 1977. Under Duncan’s leadership, PSHH built over 1,100 owner-builder, single-family homes and developed more than 1,400 rental units for seniors, farmworkers, families, and those living with disabilities in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. As a recognized expert in the field, she was also asked to serve on numerous local, state, and national housing committees, organizational boards and was an advisor to many other housing organizations throughout the country.

Under Duncan’s leadership, People’s Self-Help Housing grew to become a regional and national leader in affordable housing development, as well as a respected and trusted name among nonprofit organizations. At both People’s Self-Help Housing and in the NeighborWorks network, Duncan has a reputation as a mentor and leader. “Her legacy continues to be an inspiration, a north-star directive in advancing equity and opportunity,” said Ken Trigueiro, current CEO & President.

Dr. Dieter Eckert, a longtime PSHH Board Member says ‘support’ was at the core of Duncan’s work. “The fire and passion to do more was stoked, and Jeanette saw to it that all our neighborhoods either included or had access to community centers with social and medical services, as well as specialized financial training, education, and even childcare,” said Eckert.

In assessing lessons learned from her more than 45 years in housing development, Duncan says, “You have to be willing to travel and learn how government works, how policy is developed. You have to go to places where other people in the world are doing nonprofit housing. And you have to mentor people, whether they work for you or not.”


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