SPOKANE - In December of 2017 Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, went home to Detroit, the city in which he was born and raised to offer a vision of a new, more effective way HUD and its partners could "help people take the first few steps towards self-sufficiency." He called them EnVision Centers, "centralized hubs" that, under one roof, would bring together Federal, state and local social resources that could "empower Americans to climb the ladder of success."
Initially the Secretary proposed 10 EnVision Centers across the country but six months later designating 17. One was to be in Spokane, the second-largest city in Washington State. The designation was well-received since many service providers in eastern Washington had dreamed of just such a one-stop service center and had been working to open one. Thanks to the leadership of the City of Spokane, the Spokane Housing Authority and Workforce, the local workforce development agency, on April 15th, 2019 more than100 guests gathered on the second floor of Worksource's building in downtown to declare the Spokane Resource Center - the city's EnVision Center - open and ready to serve.
"Housing assistance should be more than just putting a roof over someone's head," Secretary Carson has said. "These EnVision Centers offer a more holistic housing approach by connecting HUD-assisted families with the tools they need to become self-sufficient and to flourish." Spokane's Center clearly got the memo.
"We want to help people," said Mayor David Condon just before cutting the ribbon, "who are on the verge of homelessness, people who are homeless and people who are getting by but feel like they're just not living up to their potential and they're under-served here in Spokane." By opening day, the Center was well-prepared to do so, with19 organizations - from Catholic Charities to the ARC of Spokane, Pioneer Human Services to the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program - contributing to the project, agreeing to have staff and provide services at the Center, from helping people in obtaining benefits to completing their education, to preparing for job interviews to re-entering the community after serving time.
Like one-stop shopping for groceries, one-stop servicing for helping people in need is just plain common sense. Ask Jennifer Morris, the Center's site manager. "Having all the organizations and resources located in one place takes away the need to try and travel across town, going to separate buildings and places to get help for one or multiple needs," she explained to KHQ-TV. "For some, they either don't have the time to spend the amount of time it takes to go from one building or appointment to a different place across town."
With all the services under one roof, service delivery is much more efficient, says the City's Alex Reynolds. "So, if somebody's working with Catholic Charities, and they identify that somebody has some healthcare needs, then they could walk them over to the CHAS staff member," Reynolds said. "[That's] rather than sending them across town for those services, and maybe they [wouldn't] make it the same day. So, this is to make that same-day, face-to-face connection."
While the Like so many other cities big and small, Spokane is facing an affordable housing crisis. No surprise, then, that Reynolds thinks housing services will be a "large part" and one of the "main services" the Center will provide. It's why the Spokane Housing Authority has taken a leadership role in getting the Center up-and-running and why the City's Community, Housing and Human Services Board decided to support the Center for the next two years using HUD Community Development Block Grant funds.
And, as the Mayor told KXLY-TV, if the Center can "make sure" people "don't enter homelessness" then "we can stabilize their health care, their financial issues, their work issues" and thereby, Secretary Carson probably would add, help them "take the first few steps towards self-sufficiency."
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