Providing opportunities for residents to gain self-sufficiency and creating public/private partnerships are both top priorities for HUD, especially when it comes to Secretary Ben Carson's signature initiative, the EnVision Centers. So, in late March when a team from the soon-to-open Spokane Resource Center in Washington State traveled nearly coast-to-coast to the other Washington, a visit with the District of Columbia Housing Authority's EnVision Center team made perfect sense.
“DCHA's EnVision Center, also referred to as the Southwest Family Enhancement and Career Center, supports our customers' education, families, career goals and much more,” said DCHA's Office of Resident Services Deputy Director Brian K. Harris as he led the recent tour. The Center is also open to the greater community and houses a multi-purpose room, training room, kitchen area and a computer lab.
Since the Center's opening, DCHA has partnered with the University of the District of Columbia and others to offer accredited courses and certifications from hospitality and tourism to medical occupations, computer skills and more. As a direct result of UDC's property maintenance and property management training, fifteen residents have been hired by DCHA. Another partner, Sherwin Williams, offers a popular painter certification course. The certification, a licensing requirement for many states, is good for five years. To date, 13 residents have completed the program. Partnering with Work Safety Lab, seven residents have become Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certified. OSHA certification is mandatory for supervisors in the construction field and demonstrates a potential employee's understanding of the standards that need to be met throughout the various construction trades. Through small business owner Carrie Coleman, 12 residents received food handling certification enabling each one to support the District's summer meals program as well as qualify for jobs in the hospitality industry. The Center hosts regular English, math, and computer literacy courses throughout the year for individuals interested in expanding their education and job skills. Courses rotate on a regular basis and operate anywhere from two to nine weeks.
“The chance to tour the D.C. EnVision Center, and to exchange notes with both HUD and D.C Housing Authority staff was extremely valuable for us,” noted Spokane's Community Housing and Human Services Director Kelly Keenan. “Our EnVision Center models are localized, based on the needs and structures that exist in our own communities, but the common goals are clear. We're excited to continue connecting with EnVision Center initiative partners about where we have opportunities to reduce the barriers many residents face in accessing services.”