Category Archives: Uncategorized

San Diego’s Way of Ending Poverty

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By Vann Ellison

Finish high school, get a job, and wait to get married: that assertion comes from Brookings Institution research that indeed shows overwhelming numbers of people in their 20’s join the middle class by following these steps.

Sadly, such advice comes too late for too many in San Diego already in poverty, the homeless, the drug addicted and those suffering from domestic violence or who grew up in horrific conditions as children. President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or “HUD,” as part of his War on Poverty 50 years ago so cities would not become “symbols of a sordid society,” as he put it.

Today, few but outside of Washington D.C. believe public housing programs will lead to the creation of “shining cities on the hill.” This lofty phrase embodies the ideal of a compassionate society, has biblical roots, and was later popularized by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. There is now hard evidence that shows that, yes, there is a compassionate side of modern urban America.

Research released last month from Baylor University quantifies the impact of faith-based organizations in San Diego and elsewhere. Based on HUD data, researchers at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion found over a third, or 37%, of all emergency shelter beds in the city are provided by faith-based groups such as Catholic Charities, Father Joe’s Villages and Interfaith Shelter of San Diego.

These organizations and similar ones throughout the country rely mostly on private donations, focus on helping individuals attain self-sufficiency and measure their results. HUD’s ability to measure personal outcomes in billion dollar programs such as housing vouchers and project developer assistance is virtually non-existent and the agency is simply not set up to do so. Faith-based organizations can help government succeed in fighting poverty and homelessness.

To its credit, HUD established local coordinating organizations around the country bringing together local government, faith-based groups, and non-religious non-profits and charities. In theory, this will enable government and the private sector to coordinate services and maximize resources. For example, can police officers or emergency medical technicians divert certain substance abusers to non-profit drug rehabilitation facilities instead of taking them to jail or the emergency room? These efficiencies save taxpayer dollars and enable long-term solutions for addressing social ills.

San Diego’s “Project 25,” profiled in the Baylor report, shows how government and the faith-based community can work cohesively. Involving San Diego County, the San Diego Housing Commission, United Way and Father Joe’s Villages, the original purpose of this initiative was to assist 25 chronically homeless individuals who were placing the heaviest burdens on taxpayers through frequent emergency room visits, arrests and the like.

Deacon Jim Vargas, President and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, said in the Baylor report, allied organizations continue to assist homeless individuals. However, public funding for the project has ended and he said the region still “has a long way to go to” to sustain this effort. Religion can help, however, when money can’t.

Baylor cites research indicating that Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners, less likely to abuse them, more likely to enjoy happier marriages, less likely to have been divorced, and less likely to live in poverty. Government programs do not create happy marriages. Religion helps bind families together so that children can actually grow up in an environment where finishing high school, getting a job, and waiting to get married mean something.

The challenge before all of us is to get government and religious organizations working together locally, creating efficiencies, measuring performance and identifying individual needs. We will then be transforming lives, going beyond bureaucratic approaches of the past, and renewing the fight on poverty.

Vann Ellison is the President and CEO of Naples, FL-based St. Matthew’s House which provides innovative solutions to poverty, homelessness and substance abuse.

Seattle Faith-Based Org Tames Homeless “Jungle”

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By Vann Ellison

Finish high school, get a job, and wait to get married:  that is Ben Carson’s advice on how young people can avoid poverty.   Recently confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Carson’s assertion is derived from research that indeed shows overwhelming numbers of people in their 20’s join the middle class by following these steps.

Sadly, such advice comes too late for too many in Seattle already in poverty.   President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or “HUD,” as part of his War on Poverty 50 years ago so cities would not become “symbols of a sordid society.” Today, few outside Washington D.C. believe public housing programs will lead to the creation of “shining cities on the hill.” This lofty phrase embodies the ideal of a compassionate society, has biblical roots, and was later popularized by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. There is now hard evidence there is a compassionate side of modern urban America.

Research released last month from Baylor University quantifies the impact of faith-based organizations in Seattle and elsewhere.   Based on HUD data, researchers at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion found nearly two-thirds, or 63%, of all emergency shelter beds in the city are provided by faith-based groups such as Catholic Community Services, the Salvation Army and the Union Gospel Mission.

These organizations and similar ones throughout the country rely mostly on private donations, focus on helping individuals attain self-sufficiency and measure their results. HUD’s priority is not to measure personal outcomes in billion dollar programs.  Yet faith-based organizations can help government succeed in fighting poverty and homelessness.

To its credit, HUD established local coordinating organizations around the country bringing together local government, faith-based groups, and secular non-profits and charities.   In theory, this will enable government and the private sector to coordinate services and maximize resources.  For example, can police officers or emergency medical technicians divert certain substance abusers to non-profit drug rehabilitation facilities instead of taking them to jail or the emergency room?  These efficiencies enable long-term solutions for addressing social ills. 

The reality is often different however.   Local coordinating organizations, operating under HUD rules, have become widely seen throughout the country as grant-compliance seminars, distributing paperwork on what organizations must do to receive government funding.  Carson, in Senate confirmation hearings last month, repeatedly talked about taking a “holistic” approach addressing individual circumstances causing homelessness, a detailed process that goes beyond simply putting a roof over someone’s head. 

Seattle Mayor Edward Murray enlisted the assistance of Union Gospel Mission to help clear out the crime-riddled homeless encampment under Interstate 5 widely known as the “Jungle.”Jeff Lilley, President of the Gospel Mission recounted the operation in Baylor’s report.  

The key in this successful effort, according to Lilly, was avoiding a massive herding operation of homeless people but rather to understand the unique circumstances of each individual, which in turn, enabled a longer-term solution to the problem.  Remarkably, Lilly’s organization refused city funds for this operation.  Such community service is a tenet of all the world’s great religions and helps avoid jungles of human misery.

Baylor cites research indicating that Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners, less likely to abuse them, more likely to enjoy happier marriages, less likely to have been divorced, and less likely to live in poverty.   Religion helps bind families together so that children can actually grow up in an environment where finishing high school, getting a job, and waiting to get married matter.

The challenge before us is to get government and religious organizations to create efficiencies, measure performance and identify individual needs.  We will then be transforming lives, going beyond the stale bureaucratic approaches of the past, and fight poverty with new energy and enthusiasm.  

Rev. Vann Ellison is the CEO of St. Matthew’s House in Naples, FL which provides innovative solutions to poverty, homelessness and substance abuse.

To: Pres-Elect Trump: From: forgotten people Re: Jack Kemp

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“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” –President-Elect Donald Trump, November 9.

Amity Shlaes wrote the book “Forgotten Man” which gave us another look at the modern welfare state which started in the 1930’s.  Shlaes shows Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal created a new forgotten man, the man who subsidizes the funding of other constituencies.

One of the least remembered promises of the Obama Administration and the most forgotten policies of his legacy will be the pledge to end chronic homelessness by 2017.   “Hope and Change,” the winning campaign message of 2008, turned out to be just another political promise for those who live on the streets, in their cars or in tents.  They too were forgotten.

So are taxpayers funding $744 billion in 80 federal welfare programs each year where it’s impossible to tell if recipients are attaining self-sufficiency as a result of government assistance.  It turns out there are many forgotten people when it comes to the modern welfare state that began in the 1930’s, multiplied in the 1960’s during the “War on Poverty,” and grew even more in the decades since.

Where does Jack Kemp come in?  Jack Kemp rescued the forgotten cabinet department, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which with its own $48 billion budget, forgot its mission, promoting policies that are not effective in addressing homelessness or what causes it in the first place.

Jack Kemp served in the George H.W. Bush Administration and his former colleagues give him credit for breathing new life into a broken and neglected cabinet department under Republican and Democratic Administrations alike.  Donald Trump: please find the next Jack Kemp.

Here are excerpts of a video from Kemp’s former colleagues and four more examples of how to manage and lead a government agency (yes, that is actually possible)

This article is 3 of 3 in a series, posted on this page.

  1. Show up

I said Jack, do me a favor, when you’re ready to go to these cities do not get off the plane and go downtown to speak to (whatever group), you get off the plane and go to public housing first.

@55:10

  1. Embrace capitalism

I can’t get over the number of men and women I run into now that ran into Kemp in one of these trips around the country that went on to become entrepreneurs and wildly successful.  A lot of that came from the Kemp optimism of going out and giving it a try.

@1:03:55

  1. Provide ownership

We did a cost-benefit analysis of resident management and not only did it improve the quality of life but it did so at lower cost to the government.

@1:15

  1. Maximize Resources

We always proposed re-allocating what was in the HUD budget and programs that weren’t effective and should be programmed to other things.

@1:32:12

Jack Kemp can help the next President (2) of 3

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Exactly one year after this article appeared Jan. 20, 2016, we will be inaugurating the next President. Former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and myself wrote the following about poverty in America:

“Deep-rooted challenges facing our country often simmer in the background during election years because they have been with us for generations, failing to garner headlines or trend on Twitter feeds.”

Jack Kemp showed us it doesn’t have to be this way.  Kemp visited public housing projects, he engaged his employees, and united the country on the need to empower people. He refused to accept the status quo of poverty in America and so should we.

This article is part 2 of 3 posts on how the Jack Kemp Foundation offers us a blueprint for creating opportunity in America – helping people escape poverty instead of being trapped in it.

Our first blog article  featured excerpts from the Foundation’s “Quarterback in the Cabinet” video panel where senior officials who served under Kemp, journalist Morton Kondracke, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise President Bob Woodson and former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith leave us an oral history.  Kemp once said, “history matters,” – yes it does.

The department Kemp led, Housing and Urban Development, can be made more relevant today by focusing on the link between poverty and homelessness, motivating employees and monitoring its own progress.

Here are the next three excerpts of that video

1. Motivate Employees

He used his retail political skills…to work the building and it changed the way people thought about going to work every day.  That was the fundamental difference.

@50:00

2. Assess Results

He was very good with just one or two questions getting right down to where we were and what the results were.

@50:45

3. Clear responsibilities

Everybody knew their role, there was no gray area .  It was very black and white what you were responsible for .  His role was to give (HUD) direction. People knew what he was saying internally and externally, that’s how he managed the place, and it worked.

@53:25

 

 

 

Jack Kemp can help the next President (1) of 3

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Jack Kemp was a pro quarterback, a leader in Congress and a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) who understood the power of free markets and free people. In a few weeks, a new President will begin implementing their vision of the country through executive branch departments. Between now and the election, we will highlight how Kemp fundamentally changed one federal department so important to those of us on the front lines of fighting poverty and homelessness.

I authored this Wall Street Journal op/ed last year which began as follows:

“The history of every civilization teaches us that those who do not find new means to respond to new challenges will perish or decay.”  Those were not my words, but President Lyndon Johnson’s wise advice to the nation as he announced the creation of HUD in1965.

Kemp indeed found new means to respond to new challenges. Widely seen as a backwater cabinet department then as now, Kemp showed us what passion and commitment can do for America. Serving under President George H.W. Bush, he was one of the most innovative cabinet secretaries our nation ever saw.

Jack Kemp’s work continues today through the Jack Kemp Foundation.  Following are excerpts from the Foundation’s “Quarterback in the Cabinet” video panel where senior officials who served under Kemp, journalist Morton Kondracke, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise President Bob Woodson and former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, give us valuable insight into why leadership matters if are to make a difference for those stuck in poverty and destitution.

The video is from 2012, but we it’s worth watching at least once every four years. We found ten ways Jack Kemp made HUD work and will feature a few of them per week between now and the election.

The full video is available here:

3 ways Jack Kemp made HUD work.

  1. Clear Goals

 We had key priorities; expanding home ownership and affordable housing opportunities, creating jobs and economic development …we put these priorities on cards and distributed them everywhere under the tagline “recapturing the American dream.”

@26:00

  1. Empower people

The idea was always how can we use our housing programs to help people become empowered, live better lives, acquire the skills and the initiative to become productive members of society.

@29:55

  1. Less politics

When liberals see poor people they see a sea of victims, and conservatives see a sea of aliens.  That tension continues to exist.

@37:55

Social Enterprise Focus: Baltimore’s Second Chance

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(Number 1 in a series #socialenterpriseUS) 

Three years ago we mentioned Second Chance, Inc. in an article that ran in the Baltimore Sun. Second Chance, Inc. creates “green collar jobs” by taking apart buildings that would otherwise be demolished and dumped in a landfill.  The organization then offers the reclaimed materials and other donated goods to the public at a discount, helping fund job training and workforce development programs that serve those with barriers to employment.

We wanted to see how they’re doing three years later and the results are in.

According to Second Chance, here are the outcomes so far in 2016:

Labor Hours CreatedStaff Group Pic - Oct 2015
116,760

Consumer Dollars Saved
$2,490,602

Landfill Waste Diverted
8,561,844 lbs

Volunteer Hours Used
3,892 hrs