A path out of poverty

HUD is match­ing pub­lic hous­ing res­i­dents with lo­cal job op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Ben Car­son Ben Car­son is sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

Gov­ern­ment should be a means of em­pow­er­ment, not de­pen­dency, as well as a safety net. As Pres­i­dent Trump dis­cusses build­ing Amer­ica’s work­force, pub­lic hous­ing has a role in that dis­cus­sion. Those who re­ceive hous­ing as­sis­tance must have a path to­ward jobs, wealth cre­ation and eco­nomic im­prove­ment. We must re­move at­ti­tudes, reg­u­la­tions, poli­cies and pro­grams that re­in­force de­pen­dence.

There will be re­sis­tance. There is a cul­ture that, stepby-step, wants to craft de­pen­dence, re­mov­ing in­di­vid­ual hope and crush­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. As I have spo­ken about ad­dress­ing self-suf­fi­ciency, there has been a re­sponse. Yes, we want to pro­tect the el­derly, the dis­abled and the sick. But what about those who want to con­trib­ute to the econ­omy, want the self-re­spect of a job, and don’t want to be sup­ported by the pub­lic? What about them? What about the tax­payer, who is look­ing for re­lief? What about the com­pa­nies that need skilled work­ers?

We have the means to help: At the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD), we are work­ing to lift many of the bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment for peo­ple in pub­lic hous­ing. HUD’s Sec­tion 3 pro­gram re­quires that re­cip­i­ents of cer­tain HUD grants, to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble, pro­vide job train­ing, em­ploy­ment and con­tract op­por­tu­ni­ties for low- or very low-in­come res­i­dents with projects and ac­tiv­i­ties in their neigh­bor­hoods. Of­ten this in­volves match­ing un­em­ployed, able peo­ple in pub­lic hous­ing with jobs in con­struc­tion or other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Com­pa­nies have iden­ti­fied thou­sands of un­filled jobs in our big­gest cities. These are good, well-pay­ing jobs in tech­nol­ogy, man­u­fac­tur­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, con­struc­tion and else­where.

Why do they re­main un­filled? In some cases, be­cause the job skills are not avail­able. Help­ing peo­ple de­velop the skills they need to com­pete for to­day’s jobs can trans­form lives and strengthen economies. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for those liv­ing in pub­lic hous­ing — those who want good jobs and would ben­e­fit tremen­dously from hav­ing them. We must help place them. We must help them qual­ify.

So we must go be­yond cur­rent ef­forts. For ex­am­ple, there must be more ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. We need to work with high schools, com­mu­nity col­leges and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to match skill ac­qui­si­tion with avail­able jobs, more classes, train­ing and knowl­edge. Em­ploy­ers and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions must have more di­a­logue with pub­lic hous­ing author­i­ties, and vice versa.

We must also in­volve more lo­cal busi­nesses in our ef­forts, open­ing doors and minds. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments could be­come in­volved, cre­at­ing a more invit­ing em­ploy­ment en­vi­ron­ment through changes in reg­u­la­tions and school cur­ricu­lum.

Ev­ery­one has a role, help­ing those who want a path out of as­sis­tance to see ahead and find the means for in­de­pen­dence. We also need pub­lic hous­ing author­i­ties to make more of an ef­fort to match peo­ple and jobs. And for those who are able to work, we must be­come more dy­namic in putting them on the path to self-suf­fi­ciency. It is time to shake things up. Let’s em­brace a future with more free­dom and op­ti­mism.

HUD’s Sec­tion 3 pro­gram has room for im­prove­ment, but there are signs of progress and best prac­tices that need to be shared and adopted. We have found that some pub­lic hous­ing author­i­ties have been very vig­or­ous. Some have made job match­ing a pri­or­ity. It should be. Some have been ex­tremely ded­i­cated and proac­tive in lo­cat­ing jobs. Some have even built a di­rec­tory of jobs, look­ing to pro­vide a wide range of choices and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Some have lever­aged tech­nol­ogy to struc­ture cut­ting-edge re­port­ing of open­ings and se­cure ac­count­abil­ity un­der the law.

Sec­tion 3 has been the law since 1968, and it con­tin­ues to demon­strate how pub­lic hous­ing can pro­vide more than just shel­ter. We must still help so­ci­ety’s most vul­ner­a­ble, with hu­man­ity, con­cern and care. But there must also be a path for­ward, a path out of poverty. Ev­ery­one would ben­e­fit: those in pub­lic hous­ing, em­ploy­ers, tax­pay­ers and the na­tion.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

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