Fort Worth

HUD Secretary Carson impressed with city programs, volunteerism

HUD Secretary Ben Carson continued his listening tour in Fort Worth Thursday, saying he was impressed with how the city has leveraged public-private partnerships to improve the health and education of its residents.

“Fort Worth can be an excellent model” for the rest of the country, Carson said. “It’s so wonderful to see what can be done when the public-private sector and faith community work together toward a goal. It’s inspiring.”

During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Carson said he would get out to several cities to see community programs, many where U.S. Housing and Urban Development dollars are spent. He has visited Detroit.

Carson said leveraging federal dollars with nonprofits and other organizations will be “the key to solving our multiple problems on many different levels. We are not going to solve our problems within silos,” he said. “The federal government doesn’t have enough money to solve our problems, but together we have more than enough money, and we just need to cultivate the right relationships.”

Carson arrived in Fort Worth on Wednesday and toured the downtown Hunter Plaza housing development. He spent Thursday morning being whisked to several east Fort Worth locations, before stopping in Arlington to have lunch with Mayor Jeff Williams. He spent the rest of the day in Dallas.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price led Carson’s tour, saying it was “quite a privilege.”

“We talked a lot about our literacy partnership, about FitWorth,” Price said. “All of those things dovetail nicely with what Secretary Carson is looking at.”

One of his stops was at the Cook Children’s Clinic on Berry Street. There, Carson spoke with Rick Merrill, Cook Children’s president and CEO, and was interested in how the pediatric healthcare provider chose locations for its seven community clinics. Carson also heard about Cook Children’s efforts in reducing asthma in the community and its program of going into the homes of children who come to their emergency rooms repeatedly for treatment, to search for and remediate the cause.

“You guys are on top of it,” Carson said. “You’re taking a holistic approach and that really is the key.”

At a stop at the Bethlehem Center, United Community Center at 951 Evans Ave., Carson asked if gang violence had gone down since the center opened last year. The center, which was built using nearly $5 million in HUD loans and grants, provides such things as child care and literacy programs.

Celia Esparza, the center’s president and CEO, told Carson that while materials were stolen during construction, the community “took ownership of the building and are still taking ownership. We are seeing a change.”

“I hope he understands the importance of the dollars that HUD brings, whether it be Fort Worth or any of our communities,” Esparza said.

Beyond the programs, though, Carson said he was impressed with the volunteerism in Fort Worth.

“The volunteerism, the willingness, there’s a lot more of it than we give credit for,” he said. “We’re always emphasizing all these people running around hating on each other, but the fact of the matter is there’s a lot of good people in this country.”