Lorisa HEPA vacuuming up lead dust

Lorisa Seibel is the Director of Housing Programs for Reinvestment Partners, a local organization that works to promote economic justice and opportunity by providing services to people, improving places, and advocating for just policies. She is especially proud of a new campaign for safe homes for children led by Reinvestment Partners in partnership with PEACH (Partnership Effort for the Advancement of Children’s Health) and the City and County of Durham, with support from the state health department and the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility.

As a North Carolina certified lead risk assessor, Lorisa focuses on preventing lead poisoning by working with families with young children living in homes built before 1978. She visits over 100 homes each year and tests 60-70 of these homes for lead tainted dust. Her work entails a number of interventions with families to reduce lead hazards, including loaning out HEPA vacuums, showing families how to use lead safe cleaning practices, and explaining benefits of repairs to doors and windows, so they don’t rub or chip lead tainted paint. She also instructs them on ways to communicate with landlords.

Lorisa is a fixture in Durham, working and volunteering in the housing sector for 30 years, which started when she helped create the Durham Community Land Trustees to foster generations of affordable housing. It all began when she discovered that her neighbors had been renting their homes for decades from their employer. Thinking back, she says, “I was so moved by all of the stories from these families. Some of these homes had multiple generations of tenants, and I really wanted them to buy a home.” As a result, the Land Trustees encouraged the employer to sell the land to the land trust, enabling the tenants to purchase their homes.

Following this huge accomplishment, Lorisa served on Durham City Council from 1991-1995 and afterwards, was hired by the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition that later merged with Reinvestment Partners. In the late 1990s, she helped write the first HUD lead grant for the City of Durham, a successful program that helped create a partnership with PEACH for the past 20 years.

Day to day, Lorisa appreciates helping families move to safe housing in order to protect their children, and she acknowledges that it can be very hard for people to find safe, affordable housing when their income is limited. She admits that the most difficult part of her job is knowing that families are still living in rental homes that are unsafe for their children because they don’t have another option. She is hopeful that the campaign for safe homes for children will make a difference for these families.

Lorisa is a longtime member of the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force and a valuable resource to the lead and healthy homes community. Reflecting on her connection to the Task Force, Lorisa says, “Every time I go to a meeting, I learn something new that I can use to improve the work and services I’m able to offer.”

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