District 26 State Senator José Menéndez responds to questions as he is interviewed for television. Photo by Scott Ball.
District 26 State Senator José Menéndez responds to questions as he is interviewed for television. Photo by Scott Ball.

Public housing residents in San Antonio will have access to more than $7 million job training assistance over the next four years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday.

Tammye Treviño, HUD’s regional administrator, made the announcement during a press conference at Cassiano Homes, a San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) property where residents are said to be a prime target for the new infusion of funds.

HUD Regional Administrator Tammye Treviño gives remarks. Photo by Scott Ball.
HUD Regional Administrator Tammye Treviño gives remarks. Photo by Scott Ball.

Specifically, the money will support SAHA’s Jobs-Plus program, which helps public housing residents develop job and technology skills and financial literacy.

SAHA partners with 12 local organizations, educational institutions and businesses on Jobs-Plus. To date, this partnership has trained more than 230 residents for high-demand job fields.

SAHA was awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant, funded by the Social Innovation Grant, to launch the Jobs-Plus program at two other SAHA communities, Alazan Apache Courts and Mirasol Homes, and extended the program to six other communities within the Choice and Promise footprint on the City’s Eastside. The residents of Cassiano Homes on the Westside will be next to reap the training benefits.

Residences at Cassiano Homes on the cities Westside. Photo by Scott Ball.
Residences at Cassiano Homes on the cities Westside. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

HUD adopted the model as part of a nationwide  pilot program.  The federal housing agency is awarding $24 million nationwide to nine public housing authorities, including SAHA, over the next four years.

SAHA officials were joined by other local elected leaders at the press conference to praise HUD officials for supporting more job training in local public housing projects, where unemployment among adult residents is high, with many lacking the education and skills to compete for jobs.

Mayor Ivy Taylor has made workforce development a top priority with her administration.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (District 20) was not in attendance, but his office issued a statement supporting the Jobs-Plus program.

“The Jobs Plus Pilot program grows the talent pool available to San Antonio employers while also fostering a culture of employment in public housing communities,” Rep. Castro stated in the release.

District 26 State Senator José Menéndez gives a speech during the event. Photo by Scott Ball.
District 26 State Senator José Menéndez gives a speech during the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

“By providing targeted resources and programming tailored to the specific needs of both job seekers and employers in San Antonio, HUD is increasing opportunity and transforming lives in our community for the better,” he added.

Treviño told the crowd that Jobs-Plus represents a shot at upward mobility for public housing residents.

“I particularly want to thank the residents of Cassiano Homes, good people who are committed to working hard to improve life for themselves and for their families,” she said.

“They care about their community and want to contribute to its future success, and they deserve a fair opportunity to achieve their goals.”

Chairman of the SAHA Board of Commissioners Dr. Morris Stribling speaks during the event. Photo by Scott Ball.
Chairman of the SAHA Board of Commissioners Dr. Morris Stribling speaks during the event. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Dr. Morris Stribling, chairman of the SAHA Board of Commissioners, said it is the local housing authority’s hope that incentives embedded with the Jobs-Plus program “saturate” the targeted SAHA properties and help to build “a culture of work.”

“We hope to fulfill the vision of the Jobs-Plus program,” Stribling said. “When we see programs like this, we see it has a direct influence on how people progress. We don’t want to just put people in public housing, we want them to realize the American dream like the rest of us.”

State Sen. José Menéndez (District 26) also spoke at the news conference, saying Jobs-Plus provides opportunities for workforce development and, to a greater extent, for residents who want to be empowered financially.

“We can help people out. I think what happens here is incredible, with SAHA providing a safe affordable place to live, but it should transition to a better, independent way of life,” Menendez said.

Major companies with a local presence, such as Nationwide Insurance, Menéndez said, can tap into a growing workforce to fill available jobs, and that Jobs-Plus is an effective way to add more people to the eligible workforce.

Mayor Taylor's Chief of Policy Leilah Powell gives remarks on Mayor Taylor's behalf.
Mayor Taylor’s Chief of Policy Leilah Powell gives remarks on Mayor Taylor’s behalf.

Leilah Powell, Mayor Taylor’s policy chief, said HUD’s grant award marks a vote of confidence in the Jobs-Plus program, and furthers the Mayor’s goal of enhancing workforce development locally.

“Why we’re all gathered here on this beautiful day is not just because someone in San Antonio looked at us, but someone outside San Antonio looked at us, at Cassiano Homes and the folks who put this program together and said ‘I believe they can do this’,” Powell said. “I believe we can do this.”

The partner organizations and companies that will match the HUD grant are:

* Alamo Colleges
* Avenida Guadalupe Association;
* BCFS;
* Each One Teach One
* Education Investment Foundation
* Ethnos Mission Center
* Goodwill
* Family Service Association
* Labor On Demand
* Tejas Premier Building Contractor Inc.
* Waste Management
* Alamo Workforce Solutions

Rusty Perry, deputy executive director for Alamo Workforce Solutions, said his organization always seeks to leverage its resources in concert with partners to help people in need. The amount of money spent on programs is not the way to chart the progress of those individuals who have received aid, he said.

“Where we’re really going to be measured, down the road, is what we’ve given (to SAHA), a lifeline.”

Top Image: District 26 State Senator José Menéndez responds to questions as he is interviewed for television.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.