HUD and VISTA teamwork payoffs in the Atlanta Westside Promise Zone
[(Left to right) Dr. Portia Hemphill (HUD FPM HQ), Clarke Henderson (VISTA), Johnnie Lattimore (HUD WPZ Community Liaison), Grace Baranowski (City of Atlanta/City Planning, Project Manager)]
(Left to right) Dr. Portia Hemphill (HUD FPM HQ), Clarke Henderson (VISTA), Johnnie Lattimore (HUD WPZ Community Liaison), Grace Baranowski (City of Atlanta/City Planning, Project Manager)

Progress in Atlanta’s Westside Promise Zone (WPZ) is being accomplished thanks to the teamwork of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and AmeriCorps VISTA working closely with community leaders and organizations in addressing and improving economic development and increasing the capacity and positive outcomes of low-income individuals and families in the Zone. On June 14, 2019, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation hosted the Westside Promise Zone (WPZ) VISTA final project presentation highlighting the work of VISTA. AmeriCorps VISTA provides full-time members to community organizations and public agencies to create and expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.

In June of 2016 HUD designated and added five westside Atlanta neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment to its Promise Zone Communities program aimed at boosting economic opportunity. Ashview Heights, the Atlanta University Center, Castleberry Hill, English Avenue and Vine City, have been combined into what the Department of Housing and Urban Development calls the Westside Promise Zone. As a consequence of HUD’s designation as a Promise Zone neighborhoods receive on-the-ground liaison to help the communities apply for federal investments, and full-time AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer support.

Ms. Clarke Henderson lead the VISTA efforts in the Atlanta Promise Zone and while working closely with HUD and community partners such as the Westside Health and Education Collaborative created a much-needed community resource guide that will help connect resident families to resources on their path to self-sufficiency. Clarke also worked on a 1Q Survey Initiative, a web-based application that allowed westside residents to respond to survey questions and receive cash payments for their participation. The survey helped address the lack of community knowledge on key revitalization efforts in the Promise Zone and allowed community partners to identify vital resident needs that aligned with WPZ goals.

In attendance during the presentation were several community partners, colleagues and organizer Frank Fernandez, Senior Vice President at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The Westside Promise Zone (WPZ) is a 10-year federal designation authorized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Atlanta is one of 22 Promise Zones set up across the nation which are each largely characterized by high poverty and unemployment rates.

HUD has compiled funding opportunities and program information from the 13 federal partners who are participating in the Promise Zones initiative. View a list of the federal agencies along with the programs affiliated with the Promise Zones initiative. The information made available on the Promise Zones website about programs, technical assistance and other supports is useful to non-designated communities working on community revitalization efforts. All the programs that provide preferential access to Promise Zones are also available to other communities. For further updates and information on programs and activities relevant for community revitalization efforts nationwide, please subscribe to the Promise Zone mailing list.