In late November, Youth Services Insider reported on the possibility that Robert Woodson, Sr., president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, would lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development for President-Elect Donald Trump. Woodson has worked at HUD before, is an advisor on poverty issues for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), and has overseen the development of a successful violence prevention model.
Trump has instead elected to nominate Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who ran against him in the Republican primaries, to lead HUD. Carson spent part of his childhood in Detroit public housing, but has no government experience. [For what it’s worth, YSI would not be surprised if Woodson still ends up playing a key role at HUD or elsewhere in the Trump administration.]
During the presidential campaign, Trump pitched himself as a new alternative for the urban poor, arguing that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party had done little to help them for decades. Among the African-American community, it did not generate a lot of votes for Trump. At the same time, in places like Carson’s hometown of Detroit, Clinton drew thousands fewer votes from African-American voters than did President Obama.
HUD’s domestic portfolio does not have the direct impact on child welfare and juvenile justice that the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Justice and Education do. But many advocates, especially on the child welfare side, would like to see housing become a bigger factor in family preservation and in assisting aging-out foster youths.
HUD’s true child welfare program for the past three decades has been the Family Unification Program (FUP), which provides housing choice vouchers to parents in two scenarios:
- Lack of housing will lead to the placement of children into foster care
- Lack of housing is the lone obstacle to reunification of children who are in foster care
A separate FUP track issues vouchers to 18- to -24-year-olds who exit the foster care system after age 16. In those cases, child welfare agencies are required to provide supportive services in tandem with the housing.
HHS has partnered with HUD to at least temporarily expand the time frame on that track. It used to be an 18-month time limit, and the partnership expanded it to five years.
HUD has also recently partnered with the Department of Justice on a very small juvenile justice venture. The Juvenile Re-Entry Assistance Program (JRAP) allocated $1.75 million for public housing authorities and nonprofit legal service providers to address the challenges justice-involved individuals face when trying to find work and a place to live.
The money, funded through the Second Chance Act, was split between 18 different partnerships of housing agencies and legal service providers.
As part of the partnership with Justice, HUD also issued a guidance to housing authorities that stated an arrest record could not be the sole basis for denying public housing or evicting someone from public housing. The guidance also affirms that HUD does not require housing agencies to enforce “one strike” policies on crime-related evictions.
“Life is about second chances and offering young people an opportunity to turn away from their mistakes and get back on the right path,” said Secretary Castro, in a statement issued with the November 2015 announcement of JRAP.
Carson grew up in Michigan, and graduated from Yale before obtaining his medical degree from the University of Michigan. He became a neurosurgeon, and in 1987 led a team that successfully separated conjoined twins Patrick and Benjamin Binder.
Carson surged to an early lead in national polls during the Republican primaries, but suspended his campaign in March, opting to endorse Trump.