The Legal Clinic is sorry to hear that Fred Swan is leaving his role as Administrator of the Family Services Administration (FSA) at the Department of Human Services. For the past seven years, Fred has had oversight of the homeless services continuum of care in DC, and he is leaving DHS to become the Director of Resident Services for neighboring Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission.
We first met Fred when he worked in the resident services office at the DC Housing Authority a number of years ago. His respect for the dignity of DCHA’s residents and his commitment to their well-being was obvious to all. Fred left our local housing authority to take on resident services work in Baltimore, but ultimately felt drawn back to DC and applied to take over the helm of the FSA late in the Williams Administration.
Fred’s arrival back in the District brought welcome reform in how the District approached homeless service and how local officials engaged with both the advocacy community and more importantly, residents experiencing homelessness. He showed an unprecedented openness to our concerns, and he listened in a respectful, responsive and non-defensive way. His presence noticeably changed the dynamic of meetings, and deference was no longer automatically given to the interests of providers. In Fred, we’ve had a leader of homeless services who focused on the needs of those whom the system exists to serve rather than on those who provide the services. We’ve spent many hours debating policy, challenging programmatic decisions, advocating for individual clients, and working to craft solutions with Fred, and even though we didn’t always agree on the bottom line, we knew that we were working with a person who cared deeply about our neighbors who are homeless.
Fred generously gave of his time (and we suspect his own resources) to literally go the extra mile, from driving across town during fierce winter storms to be certain that folks weren’t left outdoors to delivering cases of water during heatwaves, checking in on folks whom few others would dare – or care – to check in on. Fred saw and honored the humanity in those he served in a way we have seen few other public officials do, and for that we are deeply grateful.
While we will no longer have the good fortune to work with Fred on a daily basis, we know that his mark will remain on this community. The District of Columbia is more just, and homeless services are more effective, because of his efforts.
Our loss is Montgomery County’s gain. We wish Fred great blessings and much success in this next phase of his journey.