The Hartford Housing Authority (HHA) is the first housing authority in the nation to require a deconstruction program as part of its Stowe Village HOPE VI redevelopment. The project was designed to build upon the nationally recognized Family Reunification and Employment Program, started by the HHA in l996.
A resident related construction company was therefore formed in a unique joint venture with HHA and a private development company. Other resident related companies are also in the process of being created.
In l996 HHA initiated the Family Reunification and Employment Program. The guiding principles of the program were articulated by John Wardlaw, Executive Director of the Hartford Housing Authority.
"All the efforts to reform public housing here and around the country will not succeed unless the missing fathers are reunited with their families. We will be able to redevelop our physical housing stock over the next few years, but unless our human resources - our families - are functioning on a healthy plane, our efforts will fall short. The Reunification Program must succeed."
HHA's program did succeed as a result of a holistic approach that provided job readiness training, employment counseling, employment experience, money management, parenting skills, regular medical check-ups, self-esteem workshops, transportation, child care and substance abuse prevention. Fathers and mothers who are head of households are all eligible for the program. Participants entered into formal Reunification and Employment contracts with HHA.
HHA drew on coordinated resources from a variety of agencies including Hartford Court of Common Council, The State of Connecticut Department of Social Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HUD, Department of Labor, International Laborers Union, and the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
To date the program has reunited 15 fathers with their families, 15 families were removed from the welfare roles, 15 young men have been removed from the "at risk" category, role models have been reintroduced to public housing communities, other residents have been drawn to the program.
The HHA program has been deemed highly worthy by many observers throughout the country, including HUD, which bestowed a Best Practices award on the program in 1999 while calling the Family Reunification Program a national model. NAHRO also made a Housing and Community Development in National Award of Merit to the program in1997.
In April l998, HHA determined to expand the family Reunification program with the anticipated deconstruction of public housing units at Stowe Village. HHA released an RFQ to identify developers who would integrate deconstruction training, would work with a deconstruction service company comprised of residents of public housing, and continue to work with this company after the initial pilot project period was over.
In addition, community development organizations were added to the team. These included:
The goals of this initiative go well beyond Stowe Village and the City of Hartford. Construction / deconstruction is a gateway to skilled jobs, resident owned enterprises and community revitalization. Combined with a Family Reunification program, such a program can be a guided pathway for housing authorities across the U.S. which are facing the exact same dilemmas in public housing and community development as is the Hartford Housing Authority and the City of Hartford.
The All Bridgeport Community Development Corporation, Bridgeport, CT,
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Washington, D.C.,
The Green Institute, Minneapolis, MN,
Beyond Waste, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA,
The Institute for Civic Management, Hartford, CT,
Community Services, Inc., Baltimore, MD.