U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, fresh off his announcement last week that Fort Worth receive an EnVision Center designation, Tuesday morning visited the location where the center will be, bringing with him his hopes of raising people out of poverty and public housing.
Carson spent about 90 minutes at Fort Worth's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center at 5565 Truman Drive in the east side Stop Six neighborhood, speaking before a crowd of local civic and business leaders and then sitting down at a table with an invited group of 17 stakeholders and Fort Worth-based Region VI HUD Administrator Beth Van Dyne.
Carson said he wanted to hear their hopes and dreams for the center, saying the concept for them came from the Bible. He referenced a verse from Proverbs that says without a vision, people perish. Too many people grow up in a system that doesn't emphasize what's available to them and that there are too many disincentives to getting off federal aid, he said.
"There are a lot of people in our country who really don't have a vision for success," Carson said. "They think success is for someone else. What we really want to do with EnVision Centers is bring the tremendous resources of this nation, and the tremendous compassion that exists in this nation, into juxtaposition with the needs of the people."
Fort Worth is one of 17 cities to receive the EnVision Center designation that will take resources from 22 federal agencies and combine them with local and state resources, and those from the private sector, nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help people to self-sufficiency and success, and break the cycle of dependency.
"Personally, I don't want this program to disappear when a new administration comes along. I want (the centers) to be owned and operated by the organizations that exist there," Carson said. "What has encouraged me is the number of people who say 'yes.' "
"HUD is a partner," Van Dyne said. "All of you are a partner and the weakest link will make it fail. But if we stay together strong we can succeed and we can bring up the people who need it the most."
District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said, "I will tell you Stop Six is ready for your EnVision Center. We are eager to make this work."
Mary-Margaret Lemons, president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions, Fort Worth's public housing agency that will lead the local efforts, said the city will benefit from the collaboration.
"It will be a catalyst for aligning resources and strengthening partnerships and to help families pursue their dreams," Lemons said. "We're anxious to get started on our center."
Carson had been in Dallas attending a HUD training conference before heading to Fort Worth. This was his second visit here in as many years.
Lillie Biggins, who retired in January as president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, applauded Carson for the EnVision Center concept, but having grown up in a Fort Worth public housing project, said she fears poverty may increase.
"The reality is that as we create these centers, that we don't create pockets of poverty," said Biggins, who is serving as a co-chair of the city's Race and Culture Task Force, which has been working on ways to improve race relations. "I grew up in this area. I know that there's talent in those projects."
Carson's comments during his visit touched on the nation's opioid crisis, reducing animosity in society, transportation, caring about our neighbors, jobs and job training, education and recidivism rates.
"We're a very powerful country and no one can bring us down from the outside, but we can do it from the inside if we continue to divide ourselves on the basis of race, income, age, religion, gender, you name it, it won't work." Carson said to applause.
The EnVision Center will provide a one-stop shop for public housing residents, rather than having to find services that are scattered. Fort Worth's center will be near Cavile Place public housing, which Carson toured last year.
This article contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.