MIAMI, FL (April 17, 2017) – Florida’s Carrfour Supportive Housing became front and center in the national debate over affordable housing and strategies to help America’s most vulnerable urban families late last week.
Less than six weeks after his 58-41 confirmation as the 17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, his wife, Candy, and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart visited Carrfour’s Villa Aurora community in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.
“It really doesn’t matter where a person comes from,” Dr. Carson said as he toured the building’s ground floor Miami-Dade County Public Library in an early stop on a national listening tour, “You give them a good, solid grounding in education and they write their own ticket.”
During the visit, Secretary Carson, a former neurosurgeon and presidential candidate who now oversees HUD’s $47 billion budget and services that impact millions of Americans, met privately with residents and walked through the building, including apartments, the computer lab and exercise room.
“For many, many years, we’ve been trying to fund things that work,” Congressman Diaz-Balart told reporters gathered in the Villa Aurora lobby.
The representative of Florida’s 25th congressional district said, “There are and always will be people who need help. We’re not going to ignore that.”
Congressman Diaz-Balart praised the county’s efforts to reduce Veteran homelessness.
“In terms of funding for Veterans and Veteran homelessness, Miami Dade county and the not for profit providers led by Ron Book have done an exceptional job.”
“There are great success stories,” he added.
After visiting privately with residents, Dr. Carson said, “I’m trying to get the people of America to understand that we’re not each other’s enemies. We’re good people at heart and that’s how America flourished in the beginning. People were willing to work together. If somebody fell out of the apple tree during harvest time and broke his leg, everyone else pitched in.”
The 65-year old Yale graduate and father of three said he saw that spirit alive and well during his visit to Carrfour.
Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book and Carrfour CEO Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg hosted the group. Berman-Eisenberg told Dr. Carson that “building community” is an important aspect of creating affordable housing that low-income residents are committed to maintaining and sustaining.
“It’s important to create spaces where residents can congregate and create community. It’s not just housing,” the Carrfour leader said, “it’s residents knowing they are part of a community.”
Secretary Carson wanted to see firsthand how subsidies provided from the federal government were being used to help low-income residents.
“It’s the private-public partnerships that work,” Dr. Carson said, “because there’s almost unlimited funding available from the private sector, but there’s very limited money available from the government sector.”
“Government can ease into these types of programs and help facilitate them,” he said.
Berman-Eisenberg spoke with the visiting officials about hundreds of very low-income Veterans who are served directly through tenancy in Carrfour communities and thousands more helped by the agency’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families collaboration, Operation Sacred Trust.
Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book stressed that Carrfour residents were important beneficiaries of HUD funding and that two new Carrfour communities currently under development were made possible because of recent federal assistance.
Berman-Eisenberg explained that Carrfour’s model typically combines both subsidized and affordable housing within the same buildings.
“When someone no longer needs supportive housing and the supports that come along with it,” she said, “they can move into an affordable unit and make room for a new chronically homeless family that needs supportive housing.”
Carson said he thought flexibility was important.
Diaz-Balart said he is particularly proud of the community’s efforts to provide greater access to housing and reduce homelessness among low income Veteran families.
“I feel very, very good as to where this county is going and I think leadership has been instrumental in making a great difference,” he said.