I just returned from an impressive gathering in Rapid City, South Dakota. My office, the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, working closely with the HUD Office of Native American Programs (ONAP), collaborated with the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority to host a major conference in Rapid City, South Dakota over May 4rd - May 7th. The event, attended by 150 people, sought to foster the creation of actionable, community-owned plans addressing a range of pressing community needs on reservations in the Northern Plains, while providing capacity building and resource training opportunities to a wide range of secular and faith-based non-profits working with Tribal Leaders on the reservations.
The gathering builds on an innovative series of conferences and visits initiated by Tribal Leaders and HUD, in which we have brought together a wide range of private, non-profit and government stakeholders committed to improving opportunities and conditions on reservations in the Northern Plains. Underscoring President Obama and Secretary Donovan’s commitment to creating a more open and effective government, this week’s event has also brought together leadership from other federal agencies to learn how they can partner to address the priorities of Tribal Leaders, including: USDA, Veterans’ Affairs, HHS, SBA, The Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. I was especially pleased to be joined by my colleagues and counterparts, Max Finberg and Terri LaVelle, who direct the Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at USDA and Veterans’ Affairs.
To me, the most exciting part of this four-day gathering is the diversity of groups represented, and the hands-on agenda focused on action planning and capacity building: non-profits in attendance are learning about a range of federal and private resources that can be leveraged to address housing needs, job creation and economic development, rural development, small business development, community health issues, veterans’ issues and resource management, among other topics.
Secretary Donovan has said: “It’s not just about government being too big or too small – it’s about government being the right kind of partner that can help places arrive at the right kind of solutions, more efficiently and more effectively.”
I’m proud that, through this event, we have taken another step in delivering on that promise.
Mark Linton is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.