Worcester Housing Authority Joins Elite Few in Nation

 Worcester Housing Authority Joins Elite Few in Nation

Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Ray Mariano talks about his "A Better Life" program during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

On May 6 the Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) announced strict new requirements for adult tenants of its public housing: at least one adult must either work or attend school for at least 1,200 hours per year.

This new requirement builds on a four-year old program, A Better Life. The program provides self-sufficiency training and assistance to tenants. Because the program is rigorously managed and produces successful results, WHA has been able to take this major step without serious pushback.

Ray Mariano, Executive Director of the WHA, said, "Public housing is an abject failure. There are tremendous good intentions. People want to do the right thing. Democrats and Republicans have put up trillions of dollars to try and make public housing work for people in need."

The backlog for public housing in Worcester is 15,000 people long.

Mariano said that 75-80 percent of those in public housing are unemployed and 40 percent of young people, aged 18-24 don't have a high school diploma or GED. WHA research has shown that some of the families utilizing public housing have remained for up to five generations.

On other occasions, Mariano has called this an "inter-generational cycle of poverty." How can someone learn to work hard at school and get a job if their parents didn't and their grandparents didn't?

It's like learning to ride a bike. Most people learn it from their parents or guardians. If one generation breaks the chain and the next generation never learns, that information is lost to all succeeding generations. That is, unless there is an outside intervention.

A Better Life combined with the new minimum standards aims to reduce demand for public housing by teaching self sufficiency. Tenants who graduate from A Better Life have multiple times more gross income than before they started and are generally able to find private housing, either with a section 8 voucher or entirely on their own.

Tenants are also likely to report greater self-confidence and sense of achievement.

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito attended the May 6 announcement and spoke, saying that public housing is meant to be a stepping stone, not a place to remain for generations.

Tenants who are disabled or legitimately unable to work will be exempted from the work/school requirements.

Overall, this is good news for Worcester and a role model program for housing authorities across the Commonwealth, all of which have long waiting lists.

Our society promises that it will take care of the truly needy in their time of need. But a wait list of 15,000 people fails to live up to that promise. The solution isn't to throw more money at the problem by creating more housing units. It's to teach self-sufficiency.

Everyone in society has their own weight. Some can pull themselves and have energy leftover to pull others. Some couldn't do it without help. But everyone needs to pull what they can.

Thus the WHA has learned what every private landlord already knows: someone in your household needs to work.

Read the source article at Worcester Magazine.

google street view WHA buildingGoogle Street View of one building among the 3,000 public housing units managed by WHA.

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