Memphis woman shares how she escaped poverty to HUD Secretary Ben Carson

A Memphis mother shared how she escaped poverty with the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Dr. Ben Carson spent the morning in Memphis, discussing what HUD does to help low-income families rise above the poverty line.

Shakila Boyd described how she’s breaking the cycle of poverty in her family through a non-profit that’s funded, in part, by HUD during a meeting with Carson.

“I’m going back to school now and everything,” Boyd said, wiping tears from her eyes while holding her daughter, K’Yanna. “I have a house.”

The Salvation Army connected Boyd with Agape Memphis, a faith-based non-profit that helps low-income families, when she was homeless and looking for help.

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“They helped me get a job and I’m doing better now,” Boyd said.

Carson and Boyd were joined at a table of representatives from Agape Memphis during the meeting Tuesday morning at Winridge Elementary, a Shelby County School where 80 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged.

Carson told the group he wants HUD to focus on guiding families out of poverty.

“Not just, ‘How many people can we get in this program, how many millions of dollars can we put into this,’” Carson told reporters after the meeting. “But how do we get people to positively exit dependency.”

David Jordan, the CEO of Agape Memphis, said some families are cut off from public resources before they’ve had the opportunity to escape poverty’s tight grip.

“As you’re beginning to have more money, you’re expenses go up so quickly you can’t keep up, and it just draws you back in,” Jordan said.

Carson added that he wants HUD to focus more on keeping families together.

“The fabric of any society are the families,” Carson said, describing three things that reduce the likelihood of living in poverty.

“Number one: finish high school. Number two: get married.  Number three: wait until you get married to have children,” Carson said. “Just those three things, and you’re two percent less likely to live in poverty.”

Jordan was encouraged by the conversation with Carson, and agreed with the U.S. secretary that some policies don’t encourage a traditional family unit.

"Where we have historically broken families up, policies can stand in the way and actually support the break up of the family ," Jordan said. "He seems very open to changing some policies."
Agape Memphis provides resources and mentoring to families in 10 apartment complexes in Frayser, Whitehaven, and Hickory Hill. Next year the organization's outreach will expand from nine Shelby County Schools to 16.

“Whether it’s a two-year-old, a third grader, mom, dad, auntie, uncle - we’re wrapping services around them with partners with the goal in poverty reduction,” Jordan said. “Research shows we can move the needle, but it takes all of us, including HUD, to be able to do that.”