COEUR D'ALENE - "We are called to serve by our Catholic faith," St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho board chair Mike Kennedy recently told The Coeur d'Alene Press, "but we stay in service because it is the right thing to do." And ever since it first opened its doors in this city less than 10 miles east of the Idaho-Washington border the "right thing" has been the focus of all the work St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho does.
Today it's the largest social services agency in the Idaho panhandle. Last year alone its HELP Center served some 20,000 of the area's most vulnerable residents 20,000 people, helping them find emergency shelter and permanent, affordable housing, stock their pantries, get a job, prepare to be a parent, complete their education and even pay their bills. Helping them, in other words, to become self-sufficient.
"But," said its executive director Larry Riley, "we can do a better job." Which is why St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho sought and, on October 22nd, celebrated designation as Idaho's first HUD EnVision Center, "basically the culmination," noted board chair Mr. Kennedy, "of many decades of service to the neediest people" in the region.
The EnVision Center program was first launched by HUD Secretary Ben Carson in late 2017. It is based on a pretty simple, common sense concept. Just as supermarkets offer "one-stop" shopping to consumers, HUD EnVision Centers are designed to, the Secretary said, "empower Americans to stand on their own" by providing people the tools they need to succeed, "all located in one centralized hub" that's more convenient both to those seeking the services and those providing them.
EnVision Centers, the Secretary added, can be incubators to support the four key pillars of self-sufficiency - (1) Economic Empowerment, (2) Educational Advancement, (3) Health and Wellness, and (4) Character and Leadership. EnVision Centers also can leverage public-private partnerships to more holistically connect HUD-assisted households and individuals with services that offer pathways to self-sufficiency.
Which is exactly the reason why, Mr. Riley noted, St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho sought designation as a HUD EnVision Center. "We have a lot of the case management that supports people of low income, elderly, people with mental health disorders. We have an awesome child nutrition program, parenting classes, etc.," he told The Press. "But that's a space we want to get better in, job readiness and veterans' services," both critical to promoting self-sufficiency.
You may be surprised that the Coeur d'Alene EnVision Center and the more than 60 others across the country don't get any of your Federal dollars for merely being designated as one. What the designation does do is open doors. "The Federal government is huge. I work in it and struggle with it," HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Jeff McMorris explained. "The average person on the street, it's just too big to figure out." As an EnVision Center, he added, HUD will help North Idahoans get more "resources so they can reach their potential & live the best lives possible" thereby helping St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho do an even better job and the right thing even righter.
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