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Fort Worth is a model for the country, HUD Secretary Ben Carson says. Here’s why

Fort Worth’s work finding housing solutions for those facing homelessness can serve as a model for the rest of the country, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Wednesday during a stop in Cowtown, one of several planned in Texas.

Cooperation between agencies, nonprofits and private donors function at “a high level” in Fort Worth Carson said, celebrating an effort between the city, Tarrant County and several nonprofits, including Presbyterian Night Shelter and Catholic Charities, to house more than 180 veterans in 100 days last fall.

The federal government shouldn’t be responsible for finding housing solutions alone, Carson said, citing public-private partnerships as key to ending homelessness.

“I like the spirit of cooperation that you find here,” Carson said.

Carson’s visit with Mayor Betsy Price and local housing leaders comes a day after HUD awarded more than $13 million to Tarrant County-Fort Worth-Arlington Continuum of Care, a collection of organizations that provides housing. The 2019 HUD funding increased more than $1 million from last year and will fund a variety of housing programs.

Separate from the HUD funding, the city has committed $5 million, matched dollar for dollar with private funds, to boost permanent housing options in Fort Worth.

Such housing aims to move people off the street or out of shelters and into apartments or homes where people can receive services like health care, addiction treatment or career training. The goal is to end the cycle of homelessness, assistant city manager Fernando Costa said.

“Shelters are the equivalent of Band-Aids. They help you get by day to day, but they are not a solution,” he said. “We will always need shelters, but that should not be a way of life.”

Two programs are in early development, hoping to tap in to the $10 million pool. Tarrant County Samaritan Housing Inc., which operates permanent supportive housing in Near Southside on Hemphill Street, would expand housing options while First Presbyterian Church and DRC are leading an effort to build support housing on the North Side near Jacksboro Highway and University, Cost said.

Both projects need funding but would bring 40 to 50 housing units each.

There have also been challenges to finding housing solutions.

Fort Worth, like many cities, has a hurdle to cross — the “not in my backyard” attitude, Carson said. An old fear of public housing — that they’re large complexes the government builds and then walks away from — has kept neighborhoods from embracing mixed-income housing that can be a solution to homelessness, he said.

“It’s done completely differently now,” he said.

The NIMBY attitude has been a challenge for Fort Worth, Price said, especially with efforts to decentralize housing programs.

Rather than cluster shelters and housing, programs must be near near job centers so residents without reliable transportation can find work.

“It’s our neighbors who are homeless, it’s our citizens,” Price said

This is not Carson’s first visit to Fort Worth.

In June he toured Stop Six and spoke at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

That center, at 5565 Truman Dr., will be a an EnVision Center, a program that partners federal and local resources in an effort to move people out of public housing.

Carson also stopped in Fort Worth in 2017 during a listening tour.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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