A couple years ago, I happened to be in the company of a single mother of two young daughters on the day she found out her long wait for a federal housing voucher had come to an end.
She and her family had been living for years in the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s King Kennedy public housing complex, where I had been spending time on a special project focused on the lives of children in poverty. The place is known for its crime and violence, and this mother was euphoric at the idea of leaving it behind.
She described the voucher as a “blessing” – an answer to a prayer that her children would have a shot at prosperity in a different community. And if the system had worked the way it should, that would have been true.
A preponderance of data supports the notion that a child’s long-term prospects can be reliably predicted by the ZIP code in which they are raised. And access to high-performing schools in environments with less crime and lower incarceration rates dramatically improves children’s odds of escaping poverty over the course of their lives.
So, what would happen if a public housing authority were to go beyond simply handing out vouchers and connect low-income families with the social support they need to sink roots in a place replete with opportunity?
CMHA hopes to be chosen among a cohort of its peers nationwide to help find the answer to that question. CMHA officials say they are working hard on an application, due in December, for a share of $50 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, earmarked for housing mobility programs that encourage low-income families with children to move from poor, segregated neighborhoods to high-opportunity ones.
Read Cleveland.com's article "A truly life-changing voucher program is within reach for Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority."