History of NCALL
During the Great Depression, Elizabeth Herring and Clay Cochran were among
several notable activists concerned with the plight of farm
families and their economic survival.
Elizabeth worked for the National YWCA, traveling the rural south and
Midwest training groups of women in community organizing,
prior to bringing her knowledge of rural women to the national advocacy scene.
Clay worked for the Resettlement Administration, relocating displaced
farm families and workers into housing fostering security
and access to agricultural employment.
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Following W.W.II, Elizabeth, Clay, and others found themselves based
in Washington, DC, sharing concern for the lingering needs of
agricultural families and workers.
Together with national church organizations concerned with rural living
and working conditions, they formed the National Council on
Agricultural Life and Labor (NCALL) as a lobby which could speak
for rural people who had not achieved full participation in
the growing national economy.
As a national advocate, NCALL addressed the Fair Labor Standards Act's
failure to protect agricultural workers.
NCALL also successfully changed national laws prohibiting child labor,
resulting in protection for children from long days in the fields
during the school year.
With its success in garnering national attention for rural needs, the
NCALL board decided their efforts called for creation of a
related organization to undertake ongoing research and analysis of
agricultural workers and formed the NCALL Research Fund in 1955
as a nonprofit, eligible for contributions and grants.
The American Friends Service Committee, the National Catholic Conference,
Church Women United, the Jewish Agricultural Committee and
others contributed members to the board of the Research Fund.
Elizabeth Herring worked as Executive Secretary and continued as the
heart of the organization for many years.
NCALL Research was a primary source of accurate and comprehensive
information about the conditions and concerns of rural Americans,
contributing considerably to Congressional hearings, studies,
academic analyses, investigations, and efforts of new government
agencies whose roles NCALL had advocated.
As new federal programs began providing resources for local projects
addressing the needs of poor rural people and farm workers,
NCALL ceased operations as a lobby and operated NCALL Research as
a forum to explore rural issues of concern to its board.
Elizabeth Herring retired, but provided information upon request from
her Washington apartment.
Clay Cochran headed the Rural Housing Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated
to improving housing conditions in rural areas of the U.S.
Together, Elizabeth and Clay were perhaps the most responsible for
the national rural housing movement.
By 1976, "RHA" was well established, serving as conduit for US Department
of Labor Funds, channeling support mostly to local
development organizations to improve farm worker housing by using
expanded Farmers Home Administration financing.
Clay was not always satisfied with the performance of the providers or FmHA,
which he felt often made access to loans for rental
housing serving migrant and seasonal farm workers too difficult.
RHA noted a lack of farm worker housing efforts in the mid-Atlantic states
of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
A conference was sponsored bringing together organizations in the region
interested in rural housing, and found none up
to the task of undertaking a significant development effort.
Clay remembered that NCALL Research existed to take on worthwhile projects
and held a meeting of the board to determine if they were
willing to tackle this challenge with a grant from RHA.
Clay also wanted a "field laboratory" for RHA to learn in greater detail the
struggles of developing rural and farm worker housing
and about working with local FmHA officials and the programs designed
to assist the rural poor.
1976 Housing History
RHA had hired Jeanine Kleimo to coordinate the regional conference.
Having worked with the Migrant Ministry of the Catholic Church on
Maryland's Eastern Shore, she was familiar with local
conditions and resources.
At Clay's recommendation, the NCALL Research board revitalized the
organization with dedicated and experienced members and
"new" advocates from the region; and they hired Jeanine Kleimo
to direct this new effort.
She was provided with an $80,000 grant to employ herself and two
staff for 18 months, after which RHA would assess whether
local initiatives warranted continued support.
With another recommendation from Clay, Jeanine spoke to Joe Myer by
telephone at his office in the Mississippi Delta; and
he agreed to come to work for NCALL.
Jeanine opened a small office in Dover with a secretary/bookkeeper
on May 2, 1976 and Joe joined them September 1.
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The first steps of this small staff were to assess what affordable
housing work was being done and by whom, talk to people about
their housing needs, and see where FmHA's rural housing
programs could work.
As NCALL listened to families in need of better housing, as we met
with churches, and as we conducted community housing workshops,
we found that there were very few organized vehicles established
that would be eligible to utilize FmHA's rural housing programs.
There were virtually no housing authorities working in rural areas and
none were using FmHA programs.
Some for-profit rental development was starting, but it was serving the
elderly population exclusively, with very little family housing
The program with the heaviest utilization was Section 502 Home ownership.
Substantial Community Development Block Grant activities were starting,
particularly for housing rehabilitation and public works projects.
State housing programs were few and far between.
A significant void existed with no means for communities to shape
their housing future.
Almost no information was flowing to rural people about available housing
programs and their complicated nature made them hard to access.
Much of NCALL's work in the early years was helping communities and
churches to organize and establish nonprofit housing development
corporations and begin working on initial housing projects.
Poverty and housing needs were so great, and so little subsidized rentals
had been built, that the focus by most citizens groups initially
was affordable rental housing.
While the organizational process was different in each community/county,
NCALL assisted at community meetings and with core groups began
drafting organizational documents, meeting with ministeriums,
holding "how to" workshops, conducting surveys and, together with
committed local people, organized various housing corporations.
Those organizations have all developed multiple projects and have made
significant progress addressing local housing needs.
NCALL also worked hard to "demystify" the rural housing programs and
the housing development process.
Through newsletters, development manuals, fact sheets and regular
training, information and knowledge about rural housing
opportunities have increased dramatically.
Model rental projects show that with proper planning, technical
assistance, construction, property management, and local
accountability afforded by nonprofit owners, apartments
are an asset to the entire community.
NCALL's farm worker and self-help housing heritage kept pushing us
to work at utilizing Section 514/516 farm labor housing
for local and migrant farm workers and to help initiate self-help
housing as an alternative form of affordable home ownership.
Contracts with FmHA/RHS led to model farm labor housing projects in
Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.
Assistance was also provided throughout northeast/north central region
to nonprofits that want to operate self-help housing programs.
A technical assistance contract from HUD also enabled NCALL to provide
direct project assistance to Delaware nonprofit CHDOs.
Gaps in services compelled NCALL to establish several components in
Delaware which served low and moderate income families
including home ownership counseling, FmHA/Rural Development
mortgage packaging, and rental housing counseling for residents
of emergency shelters.
More Recent History
The 1990ís saw the establishment of NCALLís homeownership counseling
program which has assisted record numbers of lower
income households to achieve homeownership.
Newark and Georgetown offices were opened for the services to be
Continued rental development was undertaken including the Low Income
Housing Tax Credit projects and a big push through the
Delaware Rural Housing Consortiumís two successful five-year plans.
NCALL was lead agency for seven rural nonprofits seeking increased
capacity and production.
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One important aspect of NCALL is its collaborative spirit and
willingness to provide leadership.
Whether with the Delaware Housing Coalition, Delaware NAHRO, Delaware
Community Reinvestment Action Council, Delaware Community
Investment Corporation, First State Community Loan Fund, and
National Rural Housing Coalition, NCALL has always
applied what it learned in the field for improved public policy.
The 2000ís saw the purchase and renovation of NCALLís Dover campus.
Work began with financial literacy, Moving To Work, Individual Development
Accounts, and Finanzas.
Asset management became an important service for nonprofit customers with multi-family housing.
NCALL joined the NeighborWorks America network of excellence as a
chartered member in 2003.
The Board of Directors after strategic planning sought to establish a
significant Loan Fund in an effort to better serve our
Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certification was
achieved in 2004.
Thresholds of 5,000 and then 6,000 first-time homebuyers were reached.
Development of 45 apartment communities was achieved.
A new emphasis was started to offer more services and strengthen capacity
for the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Foreclosure prevention counseling was started in 2007 in response to the
housing crisis and recession.
NCALL has become a recognized leader in affordable housing, homeownership,
rental development, self-help housing, community development
lending, and now foreclosure prevention.
Time marches on and many housing needs still exist, yet NCALL's years of
results are noteworthy: having fostered significant nonprofit
development, served thousands with improved housing, leveraged
millions of attractive financing, became a community development
lender, and sustained housing efforts through advocacy with our
partners and stakeholders.
We have been part of a unique and successful experiment that has given
board members and employees an opportunity to put our beliefs,
faith, and love into action in an effective and efficient manner.