urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

How are Families from America's Worst Public Housing Faring?

Document date: October 05, 2004
Released online: October 05, 2004

ROBERT REISCHAUER, Urban Institute: (In progress)—we're fortunate today to have individuals with tremendous experience and perspective in that sense. This is a session that is going to focus on the HOPE VI program, which has been around for the better part of 12 years, and, in particular, will look at how families from America's worst public housing projects are faring.

We are going to start off with a presentation by Sue Popkin, who has been in this area for as long as the program has been around. She's a principal research associate here at the Urban Institute and the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. And she has directed the Urban Institute's Roof Over Our Heads research initiative; she is the author of many studies dealing with HOPE VI and troubled housing projects, and is a nationally recognized expert in this area.

Following Sue, we're going to hear from Luella Johnson, who is the associate director for Case Management Services at Wheeler Creek Community Development Corporation. She has also the perspective of somebody who has served two consecutive terms on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 8, and also serves on the Wheeler Creek Resident Association and the African American Family Institute.

Following Luella, we will hear from Olivia Golden, who is a senior fellow here at the Urban Institute and also the director of the Assessing New Federalism Project. Olivia served as the director of Child and Family Services for the District of Columbia, and before that was an assistant secretary at HHS for Children and Families and also the commissioner for Children, Youth, and Families at the beginning of the Clinton administration. She came to Washington from the Kennedy School—and when she came to Washington, she was the director of Programs and Policy at the Children's Defense Fund.

Last but not least, we will hear the perspective of Randi Abramson, who is the medical director for Bread for the Cities, which is a nonprofit organization here in town that focuses on food, clothing, social services, legal council, and medical services, and has a clinic that has served over 6,000 patients a year, most of whom lack health insurance. She also is an associate clinical professor at George Washington University medical school.

All of this is going to be moderated and guided by Christopher Swope, who is the housing reporter for Governing Magazine, which is, as you all know, a national magazine that examines the issues and trends for state and local governments. He has also written for the Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, and other magazines and journals.

Christopher, it's yours.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Thanks, Bob. Well, we're here to talk today about an issue that has kind of fallen off the radar in Washington. It's public housing. We've got a great panel today and I think you're going to enjoy what they have to say.

Specifically, we're talking about HOPE VI, which, as Bob said, has been around since 1992. Most of you are probably familiar with HOPE VI and some of the images that you see with these housing redevelopment projects. It's a great image, the physical transformation of some of the worst housing projects in the country. And the press has really loved HOPE VI, I think because of these visuals that it presents. It starts with this demolition of an old building, often a bunch of them, and a lot of communities have sort of made a big spectacle out of it. Baltimore, I know, is one place that has demolished all of its old high rises, and they often made it into a big community event. I went to one of these several years ago. Thousands of people came out to watch the destruction of these old buildings that had quite a bad reputation. And it's really quite an extraordinary thing to see.

The second image that I think is something that the press really likes to see is the rebirth of these communities. And it's often a very quaint community that rises from the rubble. You often see townhouses with tidy yards, picket fences. I visited several of these in Atlanta couple of years ago and one of them was a place that had previously been so violent that its residents called it "little Vietnam." And now it's this quaint little golf-course community with tennis courts, swimming pool, and you have some of the poorest people in Atlanta living in this community, living next door to middle-class residents.

The images really are quite dazzling, but what people forget about with HOPE VI often is that it's not a demolition and reconstruction program. It's also supposed to be about the people. After all, we're not just blowing up old buildings because they're old; we're blowing them up because they were thought not to be the greatest places to live.

Some cities have handled the relocation aspect of HOPE VI and the human services side of HOPE VI very well; I think others have treated it more as an afterthought. I wrote about this three years ago, looking at the question of where did the residents go after the original projects were destroyed, and, you know, while they're being rebuilt.

And I asked different people in different communities, where are they going, what's the deal? And local officials would have very different things to say about it than housing advocates would. The local officials would often say, well, residents are using Section 8 vouchers and they're often ending up in much better communities than where they lived before. Housing advocates would often say, that's not the case at all; many of them are homeless now and they're living under highway overpasses.

It was very confusing and difficult to wade through both sides. The conclusion I came to was a somewhat unsatisfying one, which was that we really just don't know where a lot of these people are going. And at the time that I did this story, I talked with Sue Popkin and she was just getting started on a very important study, which you'll hear about today. She was going to track residents from several different HOPE VI sites around the country and she was going to really try to get a sense, over time, where were they going? Are people ending up better off than they were before? Worse off? Are they actually ending up under highway overpasses or are they actually in better communities?

So I sort of finished my article at the time, basically saying that we'd have to wait until Sue was done with her research to really know the answer. And fortunately, today Sue has some results to share. So we'll be looking forward to hearing that. And the other panelists, of course, will have their insights on some of this research, both from the academic perspective and also kind of from the ground, working with this population.

One last thing I just wanted to mention—there are, as always, politics in play, and even though public housing is kind of off the radar right now, these programs are very much under debate in Congress. As most of you probably know, President Bush has proposed to zero-out funding for HOPE VI. The administration's argument is that local communities have been too slow to finish these projects, there's been a lot of technical issues, that they're not using their federal grants very efficiently.

Congress has kind of fought to keep some of the funding alive. Last year it was funded at $150 million. Sounds like a lot of money, but that's actually significantly down. It was at $570 million only a few years ago. And then there's one other program that is very closely related to HOPE VI in many ways, and that's the Section 8 voucher program, and that's another program that's under the microscope right now. The administration has been saying that the cost of vouchers has been growing too quickly. They have put forth some administrative changes to try and slow the growth of the program. It's very complicated, it involves a lot formulas and fair-market rent issues and so forth, but the result is that a lot of cities and counties right now are saying that they have fewer vouchers to work with and they're having to raise the rents that voucher holders have to pay.

So with that as a backdrop, I'll turn it over to Sue.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: Thank you. As Chris said, I'm going to be talking about results from the HOPE VI panel study, which is a study where we've been tracking resident outcomes from five developments around the country. Before I get started, I wanted to just thank and acknowledge my team here, most of whom are authors or co-authors of the briefs. And you'll probably hear from them during the Q & A.

And also, the HOPE VI Panel study is a multifunder project, and we wanted to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that's been very supportive, particularly of our findings related to health; to HUD, Casey Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Fannie Mae Foundation.

And I finally, I'd like to—since he just walked in, one of the executive directors of one of our housing authorities, Mike Kelly, from the D.C. Housing Authority, is back—in the back.

I'm going to start by talking about the relocation outcomes. The very basic question Chris raised is, where are people? And then I'm going to talk about how the families are actually doing now that they're out of these distressed developments. We conducted a base-line survey in 2001 before people were relocated, and I'm going to be talking today about when we went back to find them in 2003. And our intent is to continue following them next year as relocation is concluded at all these sites.

In 2003, about two-thirds of our respondents had moved, and the majority of those who had moved had received housing-choice vouchers. The rest of them had moved to other public housing developments, and a small number were now unassisted. One of the findings was that the majority of respondents still want to return to the HOPE VI site, although this is somewhat unrealistic because there will be fewer units on most of these sites, and also there's a long lag time, as Chris was mentioning, between the redevelopment and the relocation and a lot of people are going to be settled where they are by the time the new developments come online.

One of the big concerns, as Chris was mentioning, that people were raising was that people were going to be made homeless by the HOPE VI program. As I said, most of the people in our sample were either in public housing or had received vouchers. A small percentage of them were unassisted. We did indeed find a few people who had become homeless, but for the most part the unassisted renters were doing well. Several of them had earned their way off housing assistance; a few of them have become homeowners. So at this point, at least at that mid-point, we did not find big indications of people becoming homeless. And obviously that's an issue we will be continuing to follow through the rest of the study.

One of the other concerns that advocates had raised, and critics of the program, was that people would just end up either somewhere just as bad or worse off as a result of the program. Our findings indicate that's not the case. The housing quality for relocatees improved dramatically. People are living in housing that is substantially higher quality than the public housing developments they left behind, particularly those who received vouchers. On the other hand, there's still some concern. Even with the vouchers, when we compared the renters in our study on some housing quality indicators to other poor central city renters, their housing quality still lags behind other poor renters nationwide. And so that's a question as to why that is and what that means for these families.

We also looked at the neighborhood outcomes: what kinds of neighborhoods did people end up in? Again, we are finding that people are living in dramatically better neighborhoods than the very high poverty developments where they started. One of the, I think, interesting findings—at the base line, virtually all of them were living in a high-poverty neighborhood where the poverty rate was over 40 percent. At the follow-up, about a quarter of the people who moved are now living in a low-poverty neighborhood (that is, where the poverty rate is less than 20 percent). There are still some who are living in high poverty, and, again, that is an ongoing concern. But the people who have moved report that their neighborhoods are dramatically safer than where they were, and that is a huge improvement in people's quality of life.

The other issues we've been looking at is how families are faring in terms of employment and health issues, because one of the goals of the program was to help people move toward self-sufficiency. And the community support services that Luella will be talking about were generally aimed at helping people become employed, get involved in the labor market in some way. And our results suggest that there are a number of barriers that are preventing people from being able to achieve those goals.

When we looked at employment and income, the income of these households is very low, so the idea that they're going to earn their way off assistance seems unlikely for most of them. Two-thirds of them had incomes under $10,000; 40 percent had household incomes under $5,000.

Hardship was widespread. One of the things we've found in every study we've done so far is that people who have moved with Section 8 vouchers are experiencing difficulty making ends meet in the private market. In this particular study, what we seem to see is people were prioritizing paying their rent and utilities and were reporting difficulty affording enough food. So that is an ongoing concern as people move into the private market.

Employment did not change from the baseline to the follow-up. Just under half of the respondents were working at the baseline and at the follow-up. But there was a lot movement in and out of employment, so it's not the same people. And one of the other findings says employed respondents' income did increase slightly, but certainly [not] enough to lift them above the point where they would need assistance.

One of the, I think, most striking findings from this study is something we didn't initially go looking for, and that's around the issue of health. We had included some health questions in the baseline survey. We thought, initially, we mostly would be looking into asthma, but because the findings were so striking at the baseline, we've been exploring that in much greater depth. And I think that it's very clear that poor health is a significant barrier to many of these adults to achieving self-sufficiency.

Many of the adults in our sample reported poor physical health. The rates were strikingly high for working-age adults, who would be the people who would be the target of the inner—you know, the self-sufficiency programs and interventions. Obesity is epidemic. Seventy-five percent of the sample is either overweight or obese at rates higher than other African-American minority women around the country.

We found alarmingly high rates of hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Mental health is also a serious concern. Seventeen percent reported an episode of major depression in the past 12 months, which is three times the national figure for women, who tend to be more depressed than men already, so it was really striking. And although we didn't go into much in this particular brief, HOPE VI children are also in poor health. And a number of these adults are also caring for children with significant health problems, particularly asthma, which the children are experiencing at rates two and three times higher than the national average.

We also looked at how children were faring with relocation. Children are, you know, likely profoundly affected by moving, and we know there's been plenty of research that says moving is bad for kids, and we wanted to look at what happens to kids as they moved out of these distressed environments. Generally, the findings look very similar to the results for housing in neighborhoods overall. The relocatees are attending schools that are less poor than the schools they were attending when they were in public housing. The parents rate the schools as higher quality. And what seems to be driving that is safety; particularly people who receive vouchers are reporting that their children's schools are substantially safer than they were.

The improvement has been especially big for voucher holders. We did not see the children who moved to other public housing getting the same benefits. We also looked at children's behavior problems as an indicator of children's mental health when they moved. We didn't find a change in behavior—the rate of reported behavior problems overall. It was very high at the baseline; it's still very high at the follow-up.

But the children whose parents received vouchers improved. They looked better at the baseline. The children whose parents moved to other public housing look worse. And when we did qualitative interviews with the families, we heard stories about boys being greeted with bullets through their bedroom windows and things like that when they moved into these other developments. So that, I think, is a real concern for moving these families around the public housing.

And finally, we looked at some of the things that might protect children from the stresses as they relocate. And it's very clear that parental mental health, parents' engagement in school, makes a big difference about how the children do, regardless of where they relocate.

So in conclusion, we find that public housing transformation has had some very positive effects for these families, but it hasn't had the hoped-for effects on economic well-being and on children's educational outcomes. We see the needs for long-term support of services, something like an enhanced voucher for these families, since a number of them are struggling and continuing to experience challenges after they move. And I guess the challenge I'd like to give to my fellow panelists is, we're essentially saying this is good but it needs more, and we are in an era, as Chris said, of shrinking resources rather than growing. So I guess my question is, now what?

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Thanks, Sue. Next up we have Luella.

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: Thank you. First of all, I would like to thank the Urban Institute for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you all here today. I think it's a very important issue that we need to deal with. For whatever reasons, we have not done a very good job in terms of providing the types of services that low-income families or HOPE VI families need. And as a native Washingtonian, and someone who was raised and now lives in one of the most impoverished wards in the District of Colombia, I feel compelled to always advocate and to take every opportunity that I can to address the many issues that we need to talk about today.

One of the things that I think that we need to do as a whole is to work very closely with many of our providers throughout the city. It's really not rocket science. For whatever reasons, one of the things that we had talked about initially, when we were kind of putting together this whole presentation, is the fact that we can't get the providers to work together on behalf of these individuals—our clients, our participants, the HOPE VI families.

We need to work together in order to provide the best possible services for these individuals. One of the things that we're doing at Wheeler Creek, with the support of our funders—D.C. Housing Authority and HUD—is to find a way to collaborate with different service providers, be it public community-based organizations, to provide these services for our clients. And one of the things I wanted to do today is kind of talk to you all a little bit about what we're doing at Wheeler Creek, and actually——how we're doing it in the grassroots environment, and we are going to work toward addressing those issues and those needs of these HOPE VI families so that they can move toward what we want them to have: economic self-sufficiency.

One of the things that we have to realize, and I think that a lot of us do, is that these families want what we all want: a high quality of life. For whatever reasons, and based on the findings—and I hope you all take the opportunity to read these; they are very good and they're very well thought out—is that there are a lot of different issues that have not been addressed that cause the type of outcomes we see today with the HOPE VI families, which are not favorable.

And we talk about the issues regarding health, we talk about what's going on with the youth, we talk about the issues with employment. These are all the things that—we have different types of agencies here in the District of Colombia and I'm sure we have them in other districts—that can address those needs. And we just need to come together so that we can be able to do that.

So let's take a minute to talk about that. At Wheeler Creek Community Development Corporation, we are in charge of the community support services programs, where we have oversight for programs at four sites: Capitol Gateway, i.e., East Capitol; Eastgate; Capper Carrolsburg; and Henson Ridge. What we're doing with them, as I said before, is trying to move them toward economic self-sufficiency so that they will be in a position to come back into these communities and be able to maintain them and be successful. We don't want them to feel like, okay, they're building this new community; it's not for me. But we want them to know that is for you. And with the services that we're going to provide, we're going to help make that possible for them. We have a comprehensive case management strategy where we work with them to address what their needs are.

One of the things that you all have to admit: if you don't meet the basic needs, how can you move them toward economic self-sufficiency? If you all, say, for instance, went the whole entire day without eating, how well would you function? How well would you be able to perform the tasks that your employer asks you to do? We can't ask this of the youth, and we can't ask this of these individuals as well. We need to help assist them with meeting the basic needs. So with the case management strategy, we have case managers who work very closely with these individuals to find out what those needs are, so that we can work towards addressing those basic needs, so that they will be in a position to what? Reach the ultimate goal, what we all want: economic self-sufficiency and a higher quality of life.

Now, no one agency can do it all. And we at Wheeler Creek CDC don't pretend to. We're in the process and we have already developed some partnerships, and we're in the process of developing more partnerships that would help us do so. One of the partnerships that we are pretty much in the process of finalizing is with the D.C. Department of Employment Services. I'm sure that you're all familiar with that particular agency. They work to provide training and employment assistance to district residents. And we're working with them so that we are able to refer those individuals to them to get free training, leveraging dollars against the dollars that we already have in terms of providing services for them, and working with them to say, okay, look, these are some of the issues that we have in terms of finding employment for these individuals. Sharing, finding out what it is that they can do to assist us, so that we can what? Move them toward economic self-sufficiency. And as you see in my presentation, I'm always going to come back to that.

So, working with the D.C. Department of Employment Services allows us to have additional resources so that we can kind of work on that particular aspect of employment with those individuals.

The next agency that we are looking to build a partnership with is the D.C. Rehabilitation Services Administration. There are a lot of individuals in low-income families, HOPE VI families, who have disabilities, be it physical, mental—quite a few. And a lot of times, sometimes you can't even see their disability. They may function and do things fine, but after an in-depth needs assessment you can find out, okay, they have some other challenges that we need to address. This particular department can assist with that. They can help us in terms of identifying employment partners or other types of needs for individuals with disabilities. And that is one of the other resources that we're looking to add on to our array of support services that we can provide for these families.

Secondly, we're looking at the Office of Aging here in the District of Columbia as well. We have a lot of individuals in the senior population. Some folks can function just as well as someone who is 35 years old. The only thing is that maybe they're over the age of 64. So we're looking with this particular agency to provide these types of additional services for them, in addition to what it is that we have identified in the community for the seniors to help make sure that they're in a position to feel like, okay, I don't want to be discarded because of my age, that I'm going to have an opportunity to also come back into this community, that I also be able to get any type of additional assistance that I may need, so that I can be able to thrive just like anyone else.

Another agency that we're also looking to is the Department of Health. One of the things that Sue had mentioned in her findings is there is a serious issue regarding health in our communities for our low-income families. It could be the issue that maybe they just don't have the money to go to the doctor. Maybe they only go—and most times they go when it's actually a serious problem. And many of you know that once you go to the doctor when there's a serious problem, there's actually costs that are going to really be increased because now you have to address that issue, find out, you know, how you can provide—how you can work to resolve that issue, and what you need to do to prevent it in the future as opposed to if you had the type of resources and the funding that you needed. You can do preventative methods and it could save you on the financial end.

So, working very closely with the Department of Health, we also have a partnership with Greater Southeast Community Hospital where we're working to have them come out to our different sites and actually talk with some of the clients and say, what are your issues, what are you needs? You know, how can we help you? So that we can work to make sure—we can do preventive methods and not have it so that people get to the real point where there's a serious problem and then, all of the sudden, we have to put in additional resources in order to address that issue. And so we want to look into exploring that opportunity as well.

We're also looking into building a partnership with Court Services and [Offender] Supervision Agency. That is a federal government agency that works with individuals on probation and parole. Yes, we do have individuals in these families who have criminal issues, and a lot of them have been rehabilitated to the point that they may meet the criteria to come back into those communities. And we want to assist them with successfully reentering—reintegrating back into those communities.

This particular agency has a wonderful reputation for working and collaborating with other community-based organizations in other communities to help make that happen. And they have resources in terms of employment and suggestions in terms of how we can make sure that that particular ex-offender has an opportunity to come back into community and that they feel comfortable in doing so, and they keep their level of commitment up in doing that as well.

We also don't want to forget about the fact that we're also building partnerships with churches. Churches are a very, very strong resource, a valuable resource in the communities. There are many of them located throughout many of the sites that we have throughout the city. And they have also additional resources that we can tap into. And we don't want to forget about them as well. So we want to make sure that we work with them so that they can help us accomplish that ultimate goal, and that is to help move these individuals towards economic self-sufficiency.

And what I want to say in closing is that we really need to understand that by us understanding what the resources are out there, by identifying those resources and working collaboratively with all of these agencies, we can move our HOPE VI families toward self-sufficiency—economic self-sufficiency. We can work to address many of these issues that we're finding in these findings, and we can help them. They can succeed. Is it going to be easy? No, not by any means. But it takes everybody working together to ensure that this happens.

One of the things that is so unfortunate is that when we let other issues or other things get in the way of doing what we need to do in terms of providing the quality of services for these families, is that we change from being agents of change; we go to being agents of oppression. And so I want you all to kind of think about that and see how you can be a change agent and not an agent of oppression.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Thanks, Luella. Next we're going to hear from Olivia.

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: Thank you. I was thrilled to be invited to do this presentation. And the big reason for me is that I think it's enormously important and overdue to have the world of housing, including public housing, connect up with the world of child and family well-being, income, and employment. And, in fact, in my last two jobs, I got very curious about those connections and came here with a whole set of unanswered questions.

When I was assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, I was very struck—as we looked at research about welfare and low-income working families—I was very struck by the impact of housing costs, that housing and child care are the two huge costs for struggling families, and that if they don't get help with one or both of those, they'll be trading off, as Sue says, food and utilities and juggling things to get through the month.

When I then moved into the District of Columbia as director of the Child and Family Services Agency, which is the adoption and foster care and abuse and neglect agency, I was very struck by how hard it was for parents who were desperate and struggling to keep their families together, or reunite their families, if they didn't have access to safe and stable housing. And that was a huge issue.

Now that I've come to the Urban Institute and the Assessing the New Federalism project, I'm hoping that now we have the partnerships to start answering some of those questions that I came here curious with. We have, for example, through Assessing the New Federalism, a national survey of 40,000 households with a focus on low-income families. And so the question of how can we connect up this information and give helpful advice to the people struggling to take the right next steps is in front of us right now.

So I want to say a very heartfelt thank you to Sue and to her whole team at Metro, to Marge Turner and the whole team, because what you've done with this presentation and with your whole strategy is to have a plan for bringing those worlds together.

In the time that I have to comment, I really want to make one overall point, and then apply it first to income and employment and then to child well-being. The overall point to me is that when we try to build—to bring these worlds together, what we've got to do is find targets of opportunity. I share Luella's view that it's really important to bring people together but I believe that you can't do that across every possible policy and program strategy at once. Every one of the agencies we're talking about is overwhelmed trying to deal with a whole lot of problems, so you have to find some places, some strategies, where you can really make a difference.

And you heard Sue say that she's feeling a little disappointed that maybe the HOPE VI outcomes show some improvement, but not as much change as the people behind it might have hoped. My own take, from years of both the policy and the implementation side on human services, is that you never get results without very targeted effort. It's very rare to see improvements for children without targeted intensive programs for them. It's very rare to see improvements in employment and income outcomes for adults without targeted efforts. So we've got to find the targets of opportunity where we can make a difference.

Let me start with family income and employment, what might be some targeted strategies. And I'll offer a few thoughts. I think many people know much more than me, and this is just the beginning of a conversation. The first thing I wanted to say is that I was a little bit surprised when I looked at the characteristics of HOPE VI families in terms of income and employment. They actually didn't look that different to me from other struggling families—families on welfare who have recently left. I've put in your packets, which I hope many people have, several different briefs from the Assessing the New Federalism project that tell you about, say, the employment rates for recent welfare leavers and for people on welfare and the barriers they experience.

And the overall percentage employed, the overall wage rates, don't look that dramatically different. If that's true—and it may not be; there may be differences, technically, in how we ask the questions that we should follow up on. But if families in the HOPE VI development share a lot of characteristics with other struggling families, then that maybe says, our opportunities are to find the same two or three strategies that are the right ones for others and connect people up.

And I would just highlight three strategies really briefly. The first is access to work supports. Very few low-wage workers who are trying to support a family can make it on earnings alone. People just can't do it. That's why, in the 1990s, we put a lot of dollars into a range of other supports for work: child care subsidy, food stamps, through Medicaid and other strategies, support for health insurance, and the earned-income tax credit. So one of the questions I'd ask is, how good a job are we doing to make sure that through the move, families have access to that range of supports and it's really working for them?

Second policy strategy: retention and advancement. The first job someone gets is never going to be enough. And as you saw in these numbers, there's lots of churning in the low-wage labor market. What can we do so people can stay and move up?

And, third, barriers to work, which is something that Sue highlighted: that lots of low-age workers have a variety of barriers to work. I put one brief that focuses on the nature of the barriers experienced by families on welfare into your packet so you can have a flavor of how the people think about that more broadly. And essentially, I would say the key strategy is to intensively get people engaged in steps that will move them to steadier and steadier work over time.

Child development and child well-being. What are the targets of opportunities suggested by this work for child well-being? I'm very struck by the optimistic finding in the HOPE VI research, that it looks as though the children who move through vouchers are seeing improvements in several aspects of their well-being. Clearly, there's also one concerning finding as well: that some of the children who are moving to other public housing developments are seeing problems, possibly specifically because of safety.

So before suggesting what I think might be the targets, I just want to give you a couple of sentences about how the child development world would look at this whole problem. What are the things you might expect to see when a child or a family moves, and therefore, how might you think about those in policy terms? And you won't be surprised to know that the way researchers would tell us to think about that varies with the age of the child.

The first thing is that disruption, all else being equal, is generally a bad thing. Sue said that. Moves can disrupt kids' lives, particularly if informal networks and supports for families are disrupted. But second is that leaving a very bad environment could be good. And what changes as a child grows up is what about that environment matters the most.

For babies and toddlers, it's likely to be a circle of very close-in caregivers: the parent, perhaps, and a regular infant caregiver, a family member who's regularly a part of that child's life. But if the physical environment is very bad, that could matter too. That child—if it's so unsafe that that two-year-old is never outdoors but is locked in a room in front of a TV, that's going to really hamper that child's future development and having the experiences that they need. As children get older, the range of settings broadens. It includes school; it's likely to include child care; it's likely to include peers, other kids, especially as children move into adolescence.

A third way that a move could affect a child for good or for bad is the effect on the parent, because, as you heard, the parents' ability to care for the child—their own stress level—is going to make a difference.

So given what we found, what looked like some pay-off opportunities, these are, again, just ideas for further thought. One is really focusing for young children on the links to high quality early childhood and child care programs. Is there a terrific Early Head Start or Head Start program in the community the child is moving to? What help can we give the parents?

Second, support for informal links. If, in fact, one of the risks of the move is that the grandmother, who was a key source of support for that child, is no longer going to be in the same community, what can we do? And we can we help the family have a plan.

Third is support for parents as they make the move. And fourth, I always think that do-no-harm is a rule above all else in a lot of this work, and so if we are seeing dangers for some of the children in a move to another public housing project—maybe it's about gang or turf issues, I'm not sure if we know—we need to focus in on that.

So I guess what I want to say in conclusion is that I think this is the start of an extraordinarily exciting conversation. I really appreciate the chance to be part of it. And, like Luella, I believe that this conversation has the opportunity to improve children's and families' lives.


CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Thanks, Olivia. And, last but not least we have Dr. Abramson.

DR. RANDI ABRAMSON, Bread for the City: So I have a little different perspective as a physician and not a policy kind of person, or another kind of person, but I'll try and kind of give you my perspective on what I think this is all about, and see if that, at least, gives you a little insight or a little help into this larger problem.

I think it's great that this not just about housing, that there's other issues in there. And although my life revolves around health care, what happens here, what happens to all my patients, is not really just about health care. And I think that one of the things that was brought out is the prevalence of disease in this population. It's just astounding. It's astounding for a lot of reasons.

I work in a clinic. Part of my clinic is that I'm the only paid health care professional. We have these volunteer doctors, and there are practitioners and physician assistants who come in. And they know how to practice medicine, they know how to do health care, but when they come to our clinic they're really not sure what to do next.

Yes, there's hypertension, but the level of hypertension, they're just dumbfounded; they're not sure what to do. The level of diabetes—yes, there's diabetes, they see diabetes, they treat it all the time—but the amount of damage from the diabetes, the amount of out-of-control diabetes, is just—they feel frozen in not knowing what to do.

What they'd like to do is just write prescription and say, go do this—follow these ideas, follow these instructions, and then it's all done; it's all taken care of. But it's much more complicated than that. So if you want to write a prescription, can they get the medicine? Yeah, if they're fortunate enough to have access to be able to get the medicine from whatever means. Do they really understand how to take the medicine?

Literacy is a huge problem in this population. Can they read the label? Do they understand it? They come in, they tell me, I take a white pill in the morning and the pink pill twice a day. They have no idea what medicine they're taking, not really sure what it's from because then they not only have one problem, they have multiple problems. And do they really get a sense of what this is?

Now, what happens when they're getting generic and the company no longer makes the white pill but now it's blue? Now they're confused what to do. So literacy is huge. Understanding that and being able try to get that across to patients, one on one, is also a huge challenge from the health care provider's perspective.

Food. We talked about obesity, which is a huge problem, and also probably contributes to their hypertension, their diabetes, and the arthritis, which were the problems that were listed there. But what are their food choices? A lot of fast foods, a lot of fried foods out there, and they're cheap meals. We all know that, but it's difficult when they want to make the right choice but they can't. And so, how to make right choices, whether they understand how to make those choices, and even if they do, do they have the ability to actually make that choice so they can actually do something about that?

It's something else—you can't just say, you need to follow this diet, and hand them information, but really kind of go through minute by minute, meal by meal, what are they really eating. And the surprised look on their face, and they realize, oh, that's really not what I'm supposed to be eating all the time.

Mental health issues. The undiagnosed mental health, the untreated and under-treated mental health issue is enormous. Now, someone has to understand they have a mental health problem; they have to want to get help before you can help them. One of the frustrating things is that sometimes you have very little insight into your disease; that's part of your mental health problem. So you're running in this circle. So with mental health being so prevalent, how do you get them to follow a diet regiment, take their medicine, be consistent, is a whole other problem that you have to kind of work.

You want to do a referral. You want them to see a specialist. What's transportation? How will they get there? What about child care? It gets complicated and it gets complicated fast. Health care providers love to be efficient, so they want to do the next six things so that you can get moving and get feeling better. In the meantime, that's overwhelming to some of these patients. They are already trying to balance more than any of us could do in this room and it's just beyond what can actually happen.

And I think the last thing that I think is really something that almost gets at the crux of what happens, and kind of the interesting thing that these are HOPE VI, and the Hope project is, do people—do the patients actually feel hope? Do they feel empowered? Do they feel that they have control and can make a change and make a difference? And I think that's something that we really need to focus in on.

They're dealing with a lot of problems. Poverty is very complicated. And it's amazing that people actually get through the day and can make it. And I think that we need to kind of figure out how can we help support them so that they feel empowered, that they're actually in charge, making these decisions. That we understand that their health has a huge impact on their ability to work, their ability to take care of their kids, their ability to have stable housing. It's all packaged together. We understand that, they need to know that, but we need to be there to support them but let them kind of run the show and go from there.

That's all I was going to say. (Laughter.)

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Great. Thanks, Randi.

Well, we've got plenty of time for questions, so everybody start thinking of a few. But I'm going to ask just one or two first to get things going.

The first one is probably best fielded by Sue, but maybe the other panelists would also have some thoughts about this. As you can probably tell from the presentations, there're a lot of cracks that people can fall through in this program once the initial projects are demolished. I think one of the largest ones that I found when I was doing reporting on this was that I think what we're talking about largely is the population that do actually get to some services, but I know in Atlanta, one of the things that people were talking about was that as soon as it was announced that this project got a HOPE VI grant, there was a lot of confusion—(audio break, tape change)—there before, or actually even getting this admittedly sort of fractured set of services.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: I think there's two dimensions to that problem, especially early on in the sites, or in places like Chicago where there's a lot of confusion. A lot of people left on their own before, you know, before they were officially relocated and didn't get any of the benefits, and that's been a concern for a long time. I think we have sites that started in 2000; I think that happened less by the time we started our study.

But the other issue is, often the redevelopment schedule is driving the relocation and the supportive services take longer to get off the ground. And by the time they're ready to go, it's true; a lot of people are gone. And I think one of the big challenges is figuring out ways to track people, to continue to provide services to people once they've left the public housing development because, I mean, the one advantage of where they were is they were all in one place. And once they've got the voucher, it's harder to follow them out.

It can be done. I've seen it done very effectively by the Housing Opportunities program in Chicago, which is the Section 8 Mobility program. But it means making a targeted effort and, yes, you still have the problem that you're going to have to go out and find some of the people who are not going to come into the office and are not going to get those services.

I think it's an ongoing challenge. It's especially a challenge when the housing authorities relocate very quickly in order to get the redevelopment going.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Anyone else want to add on to that one? Okay.

Well, let me turn it over to you all. I think we have microphones that will be brought around the room. So when I call you, if you would just get a microphone and tell us your name and your affiliation. We'll start over here, if you'll just wait until the mike comes down to you.

JOE HOWELL: I'm a consultant in the housing field and an adjunct at GW where I teach a course on affordable housing. My first question is, when we talk about HOPE VI, are we talking primarily about their residents in their former public housing developments that have been transformed and now are moved out, or are we talking also about the new residents moving in? And, if so, is there—sort of a rhetorical question, but it would seem that there would be a significant difference between the issues of the former residents who were out there with vouchers and what's going on now in the new HOPE VI.

So my questions are number one, whether you agree with that or not; and number two, are there information in terms of demographic and economic financial profiles of the two different resident groups and the issues and challenges in terms of making the old public housing better versus helping the old public housing residents who are out there in the community somewhere?

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: Well, in this instance, none of the five sites were completed yet, so this is all about original residents who moved out. When we go back next year, there should be some people living on site I think at all of the sites. I think that it's two different—it is two different questions. Most of these sites are coming back as mixed-income developments. They're going to have a very different population than the people who moved out. And that's true, I think, for most of the HOPE VI sites, at least the ones funded since 1998.

And it is easier to design services, you know, as I said earlier, that target the people on site. And given the lag time, often, I think, it has been that they end up serving the people who come back, which in a lot of cases is a different population. It also depends on the screening criteria that they put in at the new development. Some developments have fairly stringent screening criteria for people to return: they have to participate in some sort of work-related activity, or not have a criminal record, or even pass a drug test. Others don't.

A few sites are a hundred percent public housing. Most of them are not. So I think there's a lot of variation, and I think the community supportive services in HOPE VI have not yet been evaluated effectively. So it's hard for me to—and in the review that you have, "A Decade of HOPE VI," and we looked at the all the research that had been done on HOPE VI, we could find very little evidence about how the community supportive services programs were working, either for the people who moved out or the people who have come back.

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: Just to take you back on what she said. What we're doing at Wheeler Creek CDC is to, as I had mentioned earlier is to move those individuals toward economic self-sufficiency. So, to that extent we want to work with them to make sure that they have all the tools that are needed so that when they do come back to this newly developed community, they can maintain that community and that they can be a part of that community. In every aspect, there's someone that's coming back who may not have resided there initially.

In terms of identifying those individuals who have relocated, who have moved out of that environment, we have community advocates who actually go out to locate those individuals based on the listings that we get from our relocation coordinator at the D.C. Housing Authority, to identify, okay, this is the individual that used to live here, this is where they moved to. And generally we can locate those individuals that way. We can't locate 100 percent of them, but we have been successful in locating the majority of those individuals, identifying who they are, what types of services that they need, and what are the next steps so that they can get to that point of economic self-sufficiency.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Next question, right here. Can you just wait for the microphone to come up? And just tell us your name and who you're with.

RICH LEVY, National Multi Housing Council: This question is primarily for Luella. You talked about partnering the various government agencies. What about partnering in the business community? I guess I was also thinking of the issue of obesity, that this lack of access to ample supermarkets—my understanding is in Southeast Washington there isn't a Safeway East of the Anacostia. Yeah, I was just wondering if you could address that?

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: Yeah, sure. One of the things that we wanted to do initially was to make sure that we identified the primary service providers that are needed in terms of employment, in terms health, in terms of dealing with issues regarding disabilities. One of the things that we also want to do is also identify other issues and build other partnerships as well. It is correct what he says. You wouldn't believe this—in Ward 8 there is not a supermarket there. And that is an issue that we wanted to address for the residents—that we've been trying to address for years. And we have our fingers crossed and hopefully we'll get that done within the next couple of years.

But working with them would be an excellent idea. But initially, what we want to do is primarily make sure that we lay the foundation for working with those support service providers that can meet those basic needs of those clients, whether it be employment, whether it be child care, whether it be health—just really kind of making sure that we strengthen those partnerships first. And I think it's something that's doable. Like I said before, it's not going to be easy because we're working with, as was mentioned earlier, different agencies who have their own set of goals and objectives, but I think that if you approach them in such a way that they understand what the necessity of this is—and we are in dire need right now. We have to do this. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But if we approach them in such a way, which we have—and they have been really wonderful in terms of trying to figure out how we can leverage resources and how we can integrate this into their process. I mean, they have been great in terms of how they are willing to do that. So if we can continue to do that with local government agencies, proceed doing it with community-based organizations, proceed doing it with churches, I don't see why the next level can't be the business as well. We want to make sure that we laid a foundation and met the basic needs of our clients first, our HOPE VI families, by building those partnerships first and then going to that next level.

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: I'm actually just struck listening to the two questions from the human services perspective. Both of those questions raise, how do you connect in the original HOPE VI location, and then what's different about connecting if people move outside to different neighborhoods?

And, without knowing very much—this is my lack, and I'll go ask Sue afterwards—I don't know very much about what strategies have been used so far to build the connections, particularly when people move to other neighborhoods. But it sounds to me as though one of the features, certainly nationally, of public housing neighborhoods is that there may be less there, so your strategies there have to focus more on creating the capacity. Where people move out, you may have the advantage that there's more capacity there, both private and public, and you therefore have to focus on the connections.

In Sue's example, the school is there, but do we have to do some things so that the parents can effectively connect into it? So it may argue that you think about slightly different strategies but you don't have to do it all, necessarily; you have to figure out how to connect.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: You right here in the middle of this section. Do we have a microphone? Tell us your name and who you're with.

CHESTER HARTMAN, Poverty and Race Research Action Council: There're so many areas to focus on, but one I'm interested in at the moment is education. Sue, you talked about schools being safer, and that's obviously important. It's obscene that a school should be a place where a kid feels and is unsafe. But schools have—their main function is to educate, obviously. We've been doing a lot of work on the question of high classroom turnover, which affects school performance, graduation rates, behavior, dropout, all that stuff. And low-income minority kids have very, very high turnover rates. There was a GAO study a couple of years ago that, at the end of the third grade, one out of six kids had attended at least three schools.

There's a huge difference between having a kid move in the middle of the school year versus in between school years. So my question is—and, Olivia, you've been talking about instability and change as being a part—is there any attempt, any awareness on housing authorities of the timing of this, so that to move a kid in June rather than in January—are they paying attention to this?

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: I think not as much as they should, in our study—aware of your study, and even at the baseline, the kids in our sample were changing schools at a higher rate than the one you cited in the GAO study. So it was already a concern for these families. I think the biggest concern for the kids whose families took vouchers is that a lot of them were moved mid-year. We know, for example—we were doing survey data collection while relocation was occurring at two of the sites, and the families were moving in the spring. I think that the redevelopment schedule tends to drive the relocation schedule and that's something that could be changed.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Want to take a shot at that?

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: No, just to say that that's very hard. I mean, having just run a child welfare agency, which ought to know better about—messes that up all the time because it is so hard to balance multiple goals and work out good arrangements with the schools. You have to move a child because of safety. You'd like to keep them in the same school. It's hard to do. So I would just, I guess, support the idea that it would be a desirable goal but note that it's probably challenging to do in practice.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Right here. Oh, right here. Tell us your name and your affiliation.

MALKIA LYDIA: I'm an independent filmmaker and also a native Washingtonian, who's just, like many of my fellow native folks, have been following these issues forever. So I was really happy to find out about the panel today.

The two issues that you all raised that have seemed to trigger, I guess, the most reaction in me—that I feel like there's the least information about—are, one, this relocation schedule and the lag of time. I'm curious about that. I know that's not the focus of your study, but that seems to be a key issue, and it also seems to be a key connecting factor to people's attitudes about whether or not the services and reformation of the neighborhood is really intended for them, whether that's valid or not. I mean, that would seem to be a huge issue, and so, for that to be kind of glossed over a little bit—I think that a lot of us who are curious, if there are resources you can point us to that talk about that, what people's feelings are, what the reasons are, et cetera—improvements to that, you know, issue.

And then the second would be the community—the supportive services. Specific information. How does having this, you know, these on-site folks—how is that any different? (I'm assuming the population is already case-managed to death and these agencies that you mentioned are agencies they are already sort of on file with.) So is there a new approach to these services? Is it because someone's on site and wasn't before? Like, what is added value? And those seem to be the two key issues that we would talk about whether they're successful changes in people's lives because of HOPE VI or not: the actual time to get back onto the property and live in a better housing, and the supportive services.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: I'll just speak to the redevelopment and let Luella talk about the supportive services. It's just because these are enormously complex sites. It takes a long time to put together these redevelopment packages. For most of these housing authorities, this is new. This is not something they've done historically. They're learning a whole new financing system. They haven't built anything in a long time, most of them, so there are problems that come up because of that as well. Some HOPE VI sites have tried to mitigate this by doing stage relocation and constructing housing on the site and then moving people into it in stages. It depends on what their plan is, their developer, what their financing—what the site is like. You know, I've seen that done very well, but it's certainly not typical of most of the sites.

And I'm going to let you deal the harder question. (Chuckles.)

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: Thank you. One of the things that we found out when dealing with the HOPE VI families is that they desperately want individuals who are very serious about what their needs are and who will work with them to address those needs. And a lot of times people think, well, maybe they just want someone to use them as a crutch, or maybe they just, you know, want someone to do everything for them. That's really not the case. They really just want to have the resources and the assistance to do the things—like I said before, what everybody else wants to do, and that's reach economic self-sufficiency.

It has been a benefit to having the support services team near or on site where the actual development's going to be taking place. And I think that you do have a lot of individuals who have had bad experiences working with different agencies that provide support services—terrible experiences. You can't deny that. But for us, what we do at Wheeler Creek is we come at them with a different perspective, a fresh perspective, and the majority of the time it works. Does it work 100 percent of the times? Probably not. Because a lot of times you might get someone who's really jaded and they just don't want to take a chance.

But you do have some individuals who've had bad experiences and they're willing to take a chance. There are some people who have not been jaded, who are willing to be open to the idea that they have an opportunity to come back into this community. And they do. They have an opportunity to really make a better life for themselves and their families, and they're open to that. And to that extent our staff work very hard, like I said before, to bring that perspective to those individuals, to let them know, look, this is what we have for them.

And most importantly, you've got to be honest with them. You have to let them know what it is that you can and what you cannot do, and that there may be some times where there may be some things you just can't do, or that you cannot be able to assist them with certain things, but be willing to help find the answers for them.

So the key is to not only be there on site or near those individuals, but let them know that you're committed to assisting them, to being honest with them, and to work with them—work with them to make sure that they get those resources that they need. And nine times out of ten, you will have success stories.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Right here in the corner.

DON DAVIS, National Council on the Aging: Several of the panelists have touched on the subject of income and employment. I'm quite concerned about the lack of collaboration between those who are responsible for public housing units, low-income individuals, and the One-Stop Career Centers that the federal government has established to help individuals such as we're talking about to develop the skills that are needed to be self-sufficient. So could someone touch up on that subject, since it was not dealt with in the type of detail that I think is critical to helping these individuals?

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: Well, I can speak to what we're doing. As I had mentioned in my initial presentation, we are in the process of finalizing an agreement with the D.C. Department of Employment Services so that we will be able to provide free training services for our clients, which are the HOPE VI families. They also have a number of services in terms of assisting individuals with seeking employment and other opportunities in that field. That has been a problem for not just low-income families but for a lot of residents in terms of being able to access those services at the One-Stop Centers.

We have spoken with the managers. They understand what the issues are. They're working to address those issues so that when individuals are able to come in and receive services, they won't get into the situations—they had a little saying, that they considered the One-Stop Centers the black hole; that you would go in there and you could actually get lost. (Laughter.) And they understand that that is something that—this just simply cannot happen, that these are services that should be available to all D.C. residents there at the One-Stop Centers. And the purpose of it is so that they'll be able to go in there and to get whatever services that they need. Do they need to apply for unemployment? Do they need to apply for assistance with training? Do they need assistance with employment? Do they need help with a resume? Whatever the services may need, they should be able to come into those One-Stop Centers, which are located throughout the District of Colombia in our communities, to be able to access those services and use them towards their benefits. It's one of those things that they're aware that it's been a problem in the past. They are working on it.

Like I said before, we're working with other individuals to find out how we can make their process much smoother in terms of assisting individuals with getting training so that they will be able to get substantial employment. So, I mean, they are really making an effort to work towards that, but like I said, it's some work that needs to be done.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Right here. Just wait one second for the microphone.

ANN YEOMAN: I'm an independent consultant. But I do have a lot of experience in trying to coordinate to the TANF agency and the employment agency and the this and the that. And so my comment actually turns out to be a follow-up.

Very often, whether it's from the very top, at the federal level, or at the state level, or even your local regional agency, director, whatever, everybody wants it to work. Where it becomes difficult is when you get down to the line person, the person who actually has the one-on-one interaction with a particular individual who's come in for services. And it's not, most of the time, a matter of not wanting to do the right thing. But there are so many—it is very easy to get caught up in the regulations, and the restrictions, and the illegibility requirements, and this and that—all of which need to be there, but to lose the focus on what's supposed to be the outcome.

So one of my questions is really about the training of the people who are actually going to be doing the work on the ground, both with your partnering agencies, and also, Sally, in terms of what the housing authorities that you had been working with, what sort of training they did for their own staff, and maybe the resident council staff and things like that, to actually prepare residents, or be prepared at that level with information and so forth to move forward. I know there's a great variability. So that's why I'm asking the question.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: Well, I'm going to be quick because I can't answer it. (Laughter.) So we didn't assess the services. Our study is entirely from the residents' perspective.

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: And I can only give you a little feedback in terms of what it is that we're in the process of doing, which really speaks to what you're asking. We have weekly case management meetings at our sites where we have an opportunity for the case managers to come together and talk about the issues that are going on with those clients, because, as you know, they can change, you know, from week to week. I mean, there may be a certain need that needs to be addressed or there may be a particular provider that's not meeting that need and we may need to make a change, or we may want to have people to come in and talk to us about the different types of services that they are providing.

One of the things that we would like to do, that's a part of our MOU—like, say, for instance with the D.C. Department of Employment Services—is for them to actually come in and talk to our case managers specifically about their services and how they anticipate those services to be run, so that we can effectively convey that to the client so that they won't get frustrated or they won't be confused about what that particular process is going to be if they're interested in pursuing training.

And on the other end, that's one of the things that we want to do with the D.C. Department of Employment Services: identify which particular One-Stop Centers we want to work with, make sure that we have the relationship with that manager, and then work with the case managers, who are ultimately going to be working with our clients as well—again, minimizing their confusion and their frustration, and making sure the process can run as smoothly as possible.

And, like I said, it's something that can be done, but we have to, like you said, be on the same page. And the people at the top, of course, they want it, they are really behind it, and now we're working to address those other individuals so that we don't have a black hole situation where we can really have everybody on board from both agencies working together for the betterment of those clients.

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: Can I just make a comment overall, because I actually would put it somewhat differently. I don't think it's usually the line worker's fault. I think, from my experience of being at the head of an agency, that usually the problem is that I may want it in some abstract way but I haven't found the time to figure out what are the tradeoffs that I might have to make, or authorize to have to make in order to get it done. And that that's very time consuming.

That's partly—remember I said you have to have targets of opportunity. You can't do that for everything. It wasn't until probably my last two months in the district that I finally took advantage of the D.C. Housing Authority's wonderful generosity of wanting to sit down with us and talk about our connections, because I had a million things happening, and, you know, children weren't safe and all kinds of things were going on.

But the agencies that get together—often what shows up for the staffer as regulations, is often very much about, for example, priorities. The job of one agency is to serve everybody who's got employment needs. The job of another agency is to focus on people in a particular housing development, or lots of examples like that. So I really think that what often has to happen is a very focused conversation about just what is it that we need to get done, what are our constraints—we have different jobs in the world and so we're never going to see it all together. And where are the pieces where we can overlap and make it work? And so, strategies that try to do that seem to me to have the best chance of playing out so it works well for the staff and the families over time.

ANN YEOMAN: I agree with you a hundred percent, but I wouldn't call it the talk and walk. To talk it through, how it really would have to work operationally, but then you actually walk through it—

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: Yes

ANN YEOMAN: —and that often doesn't happen.

OLIVIA GOLDEN, Urban Institute: I think that's true too. But I do think that the practical aspects of picking priorities are often a big part of it.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: I want to make sure we talk more about the health findings. I know that was one of the most striking things in the study. Does anybody have a health question that they want to ask? Okay, right here, in the blue shirt.

KARABIR GILL, Georgetown University Hospital: My question is really about the people that have returned to these HOPE VI communities. Have we seen any change in their access to health care, for one—as you know, access to health care for people in impoverished communities is a tremendous problem, and has there been any change in these communities that have been rehabilitated, especially the ones that have, well, tried to include people from a greater range of economic backgrounds.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: This is something we haven't been able to look at yet because our sample hadn't returned to the site, but Laura Harris is the author of our heath brief. Do you want to say anything about access, what we did?

LAURA HARRIS, Urban Institute: Well, we haven't asked a great deal about the adult access-to-care issue yet. I mean, we've just come in—in the first round, we asked a couple of general questions about health, and those were so bad that we added some specific questions about specific health things. So right now we're starting to plan for the third round of the survey, at which time some of the new developments might have been completed and the residents moved back. That wasn't true at wave two, which is what we're reporting on, so we might be able to ask about that at wave three.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Okay, over here.

EDWARD GRANDI, American Sleep Apnea Association: This is a recommendation for follow up that your surveys—that you ask about sleep disorders and sleep disorder breathing, as it's very possible that many of the causes of the hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, may in fact be as a result of poor sleeping habits.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Right here. Yeah, way back there. Musicals chairs with the microphone.

LINDA JACKSON, William C. Smith and Company: I'm with a real-estate developer, that—we're very, very involved in the Ward 8 community. And first of all, Luella, we followed the Wheeler Creek project for years there, and what you've done there is phenomenal. The transformation should be replicated in other areas.

One of the things we haven't addressed today, which I think is important, is the developer's role in showing social responsibility in the communities where they are oftentimes federally and city-funded. There's a great potential for the developer to take a proactive role in the comprehensive development of the community because development goes beyond bricks and mortar. It should address day care, and health care, and security—just community issues. And I think we've done a great job in partnering with the same organizations that you mentioned, as well as the Office of Local Business Development and DHCD. They have tremendous source of funding and guidance for us.

One of the issues also is employment, that you were talking about. When we go into a community and we have a project that's coming online, one of the first questions is, are there jobs? You know, am I going to get a job? My husband is at home; my son needs a job. That's part of maybe that total development plan that can go beyond just putting up the bricks and mortar and addressing some of those social needs of the community.

LUELLA JOHNSON, Wheeler Creek CDC: First of all, I want to—oh, I'm sorry—I wanted to acknowledge my boss, who was not able to be here, Dr. Bessie E. Swann, who was really the driving force behind Wheeler Creek. And like you said, it was just phenomenal. She is just truly one of those special people who can combine professionalism and the care and concern. And when you do that, it just really makes it work, and you end up with the type of success that we have over at Wheeler Creek.

In terms of working with the developer, we are in the process of, like I said before, identifying individuals who are suitable for employment opportunities working with the developers. And that is something that they are open to. There're plenty of individuals—it's amazing how—I had the opportunity to sit in on a job readiness piece where we did interviewing techniques for some of the clients. And I was the employer and we were actually interviewing the client as a real-life situation. And just the type of skills that some of them have—we had one young lady who had had a plumbing apprenticeship, a gentleman who had worked in labor positions, I mean, for a number of times. I mean, they have a lot of skills and it's just amazing. We were like, oh, good, we can send him to here, we can send this person there, or we can send them to you. Oh fantastic, I'll make a note of that.

But it's amazing the number of skills that they do have and how just doing their process—we were just—the mock interviews were interrupted because we were like, look, we've got to get you this job; we need to place you here because this is amazing that you have these skills, and you have all these certifications and we need to match you up with those individuals, so, like I said before, you can move them towards economic self-sufficiency.

But that is something that we are doing: trying to work with the developers to make sure that we take those individuals who are coming through this—our CSSP process—to place them with employment opportunities with the developers and other businesses in the city. I definitely want to get with you after the presentation. (Laughter.)

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: We've got time for one more question. Right here in the front. We're giving our microphone people a workout here.

BILL GORHAM, Urban Institute: I know that one of the objects is to try to understand the impact of the surrounding areas of the sites. What happens in the community people who live around these sites? What happens in the larger communities? And I also note that you pointed out in this report that you haven't done much in that yet. Is that—

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: This study is following the original residents, so we're not—

BILL GORHAM, Urban Institute: So that's it. You're not really looking at that.

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: In the review we did, "A Decade of HOPE VI," we looked at some of the evidence about neighborhoods. It's generally been pretty positive, I mean, taking—I think just sort of fundamentally removing the blight that a lot of these huge developments were causing. There is a lot of evidence of crime going down, so I think—but it hasn't been systematically evaluated either.

BILL GORHAM, Urban Institute: It's really very important, because it's not just the positive effects, but the negative ones... So, there's a lot of stuff going on around those communities, which at least, maybe is as important as the things happening in the communities.

And the hopes—the people who founded these projects really did expect them to be the beginning of something very good spreading out, and—to try to measure—

SUSAN POPKIN, Urban Institute: I think Bruce Katz has looked at that more. I know the folks at Abt Associates have done a little bit of looking at that. So people have tried in various ways. There hasn't been a big systematic study. There have been several case studies so far, so.

CHRISTOPHER SWOPE, Governing Magazine: Great, well it's 1:30 and you're all in Washington, so you're all workaholics—(laughter)—so I know you've got at least 20 e-mails in your in-box right now. So please give panel a round of applause. (Applause.) Very nice.


Topics/Tags: | Children and Youth | Cities and Neighborhoods | Families and Parenting | Housing

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