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5 min read

Celebrating Hassan: 15 Years of Foreclosure Prevention

Celebrating Hassan: 15 Years of Foreclosure Prevention

Who can you turn to for help when you’re facing one of the worst things imaginable—the foreclosure of your home? For thousands of people across the Twin Cities, the answer has been one man: Hassan Abdillahi.

Hassan has been part of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s Foreclosure Prevention Program for 15 years. He met people in the darkest moments of their lives with kindness and compassion, advocated for them with tenacity, guided them through a bewildering process, and gave them hope no matter the outcome. Now, Hassan is looking forward to the next chapter of his life in retirement.

“The maximum time most foreclosure counselors can stay in the field is five or six years,” Hassan says. While the work is very rewarding, it’s also very stressful. So how do you build up the fortitude for such mentally and emotionally taxing work? For Hassan, the answer may come as a surprise: geophysics.

Hassan Abdillahi headshot

Mountaintop Experiences

For more than 20 years, Hassan was a geophysicist in Saudi Arabia. He spent months at a time out in the field climbing mountains, exploring, and assessing for minerals.

“It was a very nice job, but one of the toughest physically,” Hassan remembers. He was a bachelor, and he loved the adventure and thrill of it. But then he started a family and came to the United States in 1997, and he didn’t want to leave his wife and four children at home while he spent long periods in the field. So, he switched careers.

Hassan worked jobs in manufacturing and technology, then went back to school for Network Administration. In typical Hassan fashion, he crammed in 20+ credits a semester to finish in two years. After a few other roles, Hassan eventually landed a job as an unemployment counselor with Lifetrack Resources.

“Through that interaction I came to know that I am helping people who need help,” Hassan says. “Especially those who have language barriers—mainly Somalis and East Africans. I became very interested in that kind of social work.”

When Hassan saw that Habitat was seeking foreclosure prevention counselors, he applied and was hired. It was February 4, 2008—the height of the foreclosure crisis. Twin Cities Habitat’s Foreclosure Prevention Program had been around for a while but was shifting focus to become the primary foreclosure prevention provider for the city of Minneapolis. Hassan quickly had a caseload of more than 120 clients.

“Sometimes I didn’t know my feet from my head,” Hassan laughs. “I was swimming in a pool of mortgages. It was really overwhelming.”

Hassan painting at all staff build day
One of Hassan's favorite parts of working at Habitat was the people he worked with, and he especially loved the all staff volunteer days.

Tireless Advocate

Hassan quickly learned the ropes. When clients come to Hassan for counseling, they could be anywhere in the process. Maybe they’re late on a few mortgage payments, or maybe they have a foreclosure notice from the Sheriff. Hassan thoroughly analyzes their finances and then helps them develop a plan—no matter what. First, he gets to the root of why they’re behind on payments and looks for a solution. Then he guides them through the oftentimes confusing process, counseling them on what they can say to their lender, advocating on their behalf, and connecting them to other resources. Hassan is with his clients every step of the way, even if that means they can’t keep their home.

“Sometimes families are crying in front of you. Sometimes I cry with them.”

Once, Hassan received a call just before 5:00 p.m. The house was going to be foreclosed the next day, and the owner was desperate. Hassan was determined to do everything in his power to help. Over the course of two hours and 43 minutes, Hassan was transferred to the bank’s offices in Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and ended up speaking with a VP in San Francisco. And at the last minute, they were able to postpone the foreclosure.

“When you’re helping somebody, it’s very amazing. That’s what kept me staying in this kind of counseling to today.”

Hassan was part of a large foreclosure counseling team during the housing crisis. Over the years, as the crisis waned and his coworkers sought other work, Hassan gradually became a team of one. But Hassan stuck with it because he loves helping. He volunteered to help other organizations with Somali translation. When the pandemic hit, Hassan helped more than 350 clients access additional foreclosure prevention assistance through the CARES Act.

Over the course of his 15 years with Habitat, Hassan counseled more than 2,000 clients with an 85% success rate of averting foreclosure. Tonight, thousands of our Twin Cities neighbors will go to sleep in homes they almost lost but were able to keep—thanks to Hassan.

“I believe Habitat is one family,” Hassan says. “I like everyone who comes here. They are friendly and they respect each other. I have been in the workplace for 42 years, and Habitat ranks the first job, and geophysics is the second. I have a double feeling—I will miss my organization, but I am excited for the next chapter.”

Well Wishes

Hassan’s next chapter includes returning to Somaliland for a good chunk of the year, spending more time with family, and maybe even doing some geophysics work again. He will be missed by his many Habitat clients and coworkers. We’ll leave you with a few words from some of the leaders who supervised and learned from Hassan.

Kristin Beckmann

Former Vice President, Programs & Services, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

If you watch families walk into Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, you can tell who is coming in to try to buy a home versus who is trying to hold onto a home. Homeowners navigating the foreclosure process carry a heavy weight and you can see how it rides on them. If you continue to watch, you could also tell when a family had just met with Hassan Abdillahi. A gifted foreclosure prevention counselor and just genuinely wonderful human being, Hassan leaned in to help thousands carry their burden. In many cases, Hassan was not able to help the homeowner prevent foreclosure. However even in those moments, Hassan would guide the family through the complicated process with grace. Regardless of the outcome, after families met with him they walked a little taller knowing Habitat and Hassan were there to help carry the weight.

Hassan and I worked together during the foreclosure crisis, which was a time of unprecedented demand on the Twin Cities Habitat program. The volume of casework was staggering and the foreclosure prevention counselors were under a great deal of pressure. Even though he was extremely busy, Hassan always took time to connect. He was so generous and taught me so much about the Muslim faith. I carried many of the things he taught me forward into the roles I had with the City of Saint Paul and the Governor's Office. I am deeply grateful for his years of service and his friendship. We are all better for Hassan's contribution to our community and I wish him the best in his retirement.


Cristen Incitti

Former Senior Director, Programs & Services, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity
Current CEO at Habitat for Humanity Minnesota

Working with and alongside Hassan was a pleasure and honor. He was one of the first people to teach me about the importance of advocacy and I was inspired by his continued hope in a better future. He shared with me his hope and work for his home country and I knew his passion for supporting people and communities would have great impact.

He was always an advocate for the homeowners he was working with, and I continue to share his stories of the importance of providing financial support to ensure housing stability for homeowners facing foreclosure. In thinking about his time in this work, I’m certain his advocacy and commitment to the foreclosure prevention work and families in our communities will have impacts for generations. And I’m certain we’ll see the impacts of his passion and integrity in his home country, too. He is an inspiration to all of us to keep the hope and keep working to make the world a better place!


Shereese Turner

Chief of Programs & Services, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Will I miss Hassan…is an understatement!!

I’ll miss Hassan’s presence, his smile, his positive light, his loyalty, his devotion, his willingness to just get things done, his independence, while creating welcoming space for others.

His strong connections to the homeowners and the community. His passions, commitments, and how he supports others are unmatched!

I could thank Hassan a million times over and it still would not be enough for all he’s done for our community of homeowners.

Enjoy your second act, and happy retirement Hassan!


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