While the media loudly speculates about Donald J. Trump’s success or failure during his first year in office, the president’s cabinet has quietly been transforming federal policy to embrace the conservative principles Trump advanced during his presidential campaign.
Last month, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson announced an initiative aimed to help people living in crime-ridden public housing to gain the skills they need to buy or rent homes in the same neighborhoods where the vast majority of Americans live.
The program puts in place EnVision Centers near or in public housing developments “to help HUD-assisted households achieve self-sufficiency.”
“EnVision Centers will be centralized hubs that serve as an incubator for the four key pillars of self-sufficiency; character and leadership, educational advancement, economic empowerment, and health and wellness,” the press release announcing the program said.
“Through results-driven partnerships with federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, corporations, public housing authorities, and housing finance agencies, EnVision Centers will leverage public-private resources for maximum community impact,” the press release said.
“While funding for HUD has increased over the last twenty years, the number of households served has remained the same,” Carson said in the announcement. “We need to think differently about how we can empower Americans to climb the ladder of success.”
“EnVision Centers are designed to help people take the first few steps towards self-sufficiency,” Carson said.
“Every household we are able to help graduate from HUD-assistance allows HUD to help one more family in need,” Carson said.
Public housing was created as a temporary means to help low-income families but has resulted in multiple generations living in public housing with no pathway out.
“For many of the millions of residents who live in public housing, the consequences have been a disaster,” Raymond V. Mariano, former executive director of the Worcester Housing Authority and former mayor of Worcester, Mass., wrote in a 2016 editorial.
“In my home city of Worcester, Massachusetts, about 80 percent of our adult residents are unemployed (full time), 40 percent don’t have a high school diploma or a GED,” Mariano wrote. “Many of these families have lived in public housing for generations.”
Now, HUD is putting in place 10 pilot EnVision Centers across the country and will also launch a mobile application to connect HUD households with resources.
The initiative’s announcement reads, in part:
Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, the Administration is committed to reforming government services and expanding opportunities for more Americans to become self-sufficient. The EnVision Center demonstration focuses on empowering people to leave HUD-assisted housing through self-sufficiency to become responsible homeowners and renters in the private market. By doing so, HUD will be able to make those resources available to others and help more Americans.
The EnVision Centers demonstration is premised on the notion that financial support alone is insufficient to solve the problem of poverty. Intentional and collective efforts across a diverse set of organizations are needed to implement a holistic approach to foster long-lasting self-sufficiency.
EnVision Centers will also “break down the silos of government, and co-locate government services that lead to self-sufficiency,” the announcement said.
The new program will be listed in the Federal Register to allow for public comment, according to HUD.