HUD DESIGNATES LAGRANGE HOUSING AUTHORITY AS AN ENVISION CENTER
HUD SE Region Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett tours the LaGrange Housing Authority EnVision Center.
Right to left - HUD SE Region Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett presents the HUD SE Region EnVision Center Official Recognition Certificate to Zsa Zsa Heard, CEO LaGrange Housing Authority.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designated on October 29, 2019 the LaGrange Housing Authority of LaGrange, Georgia as the first EnVision Center in the state. HUD Southeast Regional Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett, USDA-FNS SE Region Administrator Willie Taylor, Zsa Zsa Heard, LaGrange Housing Authority CEO and Alice Vines, Resident Commissioner were among the distinguished speakers on hand for the opening, along with an array of attendees. The Community Center which was designated as an EnVision Center is in the hub of residential buildings of Phoenix, the recently renamed Benjamin Harvey Hill Homes. West Georgia Star is an integral component of LaGrange Housing Authority's EnVision Center's resident service as it serves as a non-profit corporation that promotes self-sufficiency, poverty decentralizing and helps families get well-paying jobs so they can afford to not need public assistance.
"This is a momentous moment for the Housing Authority," said Heard, CEO of LaGrange Housing Authority. "This has been my mission, to deliberately interrupt poverty. Because the people cannot remain in those places, if you want to put them in beautiful buildings."
Heard noted that the housing authority does things different than others.
"People are going to have to get on board because we don't just house," Heard said. "We house people to send them to a different and better place. It was never intended for them to stay 66 years, we just allowed it."
Board member and resident Alice Vines spoke about her experiences saying that, "I was an officer and I lost my job, I lost my home, I lost everything that I had, and I came over here and got an apartment. I was blessed." She added that over time under Heard's leadership things changed for the better.
"When I first came, I would sit on my front porch and I would read my Bible," Vines said. "You saw a lot of strays, it was guys mostly, and they were so bold. I would see them on the side of my building just smoking reefer. As time went on Heard started doing some things. Cameras were put up ... all of sudden you didn't see any strays coming around."
Vines said it's because of programs through West Georgia Star that the housing authority offered her and her granddaughter real hope that eventually helped them achieve educational goals they did not believe were ever possible.
HUD SE Region Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett concluded the day's events as she provided closing remarks.
"When I came here, I saw that things were right," said Cleveland-Leggett. "Leadership is the key to any successful organization."
"If you have any organization that has a great idea, but if you don't have a person to push it forward and to make it a reality then it's just a good idea. You have Zsa Zsa Heard, who is one of the best leaders I have ever met."
Concluding her remarks Cleveland-Leggett quoted Emily Dickinson.
"And that is ‘I dwell in possibility,'" Cleveland-Leggett said. "She doesn't say, I think about possibility. I dream about what's possible. She says, I've dwelled in possibility… when you dwell in possibilities, you linger, you stay there. And if you dwell in possibility, you will be blessed, and you will achieve your goals."
LaGrange Housing Authority's EnVision Center designation is truly remarkable and indicative of their vision and drive to "dwell in possibilities" and help them come to fruition for those they and HUD mutually serve. HUD's EnVision Centers are premised on the notion that financial support alone can't solve the problem of poverty, and that collective efforts across a diverse set of organizations, both public and private, are needed to help low-income individuals and families rise out of it. The programs offered are based on the EnVision Center's four pillars: economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness, and character development.