HUD launches the Detroit EnVision Center

Ben Carson
(L to R) Life Remodeled founder, Chris Lambert, Detroit mayor, Mike Duggan, HUD Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, coach Lou Holtz, ex-Pittsburgh Steeler, Jerome Bettis at inauguration of Detroit EnVision Center

HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, has made his department’s measure of success the number of those who progress beyond needing assistance rather than the number of people who are being assisted. He has proposed EnVision centers as a means to help people achieve self-sufficiency. Last week, Carson was in Detroit to launch one of 17 EnVision center demonstrations HUD is opening around the country.

Establishing an EnVision center requires the cooperation of a local non-profit, the municipal government and the local housing authority. The centers will be located near public housing and support HUD’s four key pillars of self-sufficiency: economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness, and character and leadership. Each EnVision center will be unique to the local community based on the community’s needs and desires.

EnVision centers were just a concept to this point. The Detroit EnVision center is a prime example of how such centers can work in practice.

Genesis of the center

The Durfee Elementary-Middle School was a 143,000 sq. ft. building built in 1927. Because of Detroit’s declining population, the school was no longer required so the school district offered to lease it for a nominal fee to Life Remodeled, a local non-profit. Launched in 2011, Life Remodeled began by repairing homes and reducing neighborhood blight, and had recently expanded to upgrading public schools. The organization is in the process of repurposing the school as the Durfee Innovation Society.

The Durfee Innovation Society is making the building into a “community innovation center focused on entrepreneurship, employment, education and community.” It’soverseen by a Community Advisory Council made up of community leaders. It will offer daycare for preschool-aged children, tutoring, a weekend marketplace, a construction trades incubator, and robotics programming training. All of these initiatives were in place before the Durfee Innovation Society center was designated an EnVision center. It is expected that HUD’s imprimatur will attract other initiatives to the center.

HUD lends a hand

In the near term, the EnVision center designation means that the Federal government will bring a Social Security Administration office to the center and that the IRS will open an income tax assistance office there during tax season. HUD will gauge the success of the centers by tracking the number of those it moves to self-sufficiency.

At the recent Detroit EnVision center launch, Carson said, “Housing assistance should be more than just putting a roof over someone’s head. 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.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan added, “EnVision Centers are about bringing services to people in neighborhoods and I am thankful that our partners at HUD chose Detroit to open the first one in the country. This new center will help make the most of these services and facilities that serve the community.”

In addition to a second EnVision center in Detroit, others were announced for Bowling Green, Kentucky; Chicago, Ill.; Choctaw Nation, Okla.; Fort Worth, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; Hickory, North Carolina; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Inkster, Mich.; Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Missouri; Philadelphia, Penn.; Phillipsburg, New Jersey; San Diego, Calif.; Spokane, Wash.; Washington, DC; and Youngstown, Ohio.