2003 Citizen Services

Terry Van Allen

Developed a school of entrepreneurship for one of Texas’ most impoverished communities.

Dr. Terry Van Allen’s title at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was Community Builder. The people of Galveston, Texas, know how fitting that title was. His three years of work as a Community Builder and his current efforts as HUD Operations Specialist have made a difference in the lives of people in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Texas.

Van Allen worked with the nonprofit organization Public Incorporation to develop a School of Entrepreneurship for residents in Galveston’s Old Central Carver Park neighborhood, which has the highest crime, drug abuse, infant mortality and poverty rates in Texas. Now in its fourth year, the program offers instruction and counseling to about fifty local residents of the predominantly African-American community. It aims to teach these young people to become productive members of their community by starting small businesses instead of turning to crime.

“The School of Entrepreneurship recognizes that not all kids are going to become professionals, or even go to work for anybody else,” said Marybet McGuigan, HUD’s chief of multi-family asset management. “It teaches them that they can open small businesses on their own.” Van Allen’s program teaches them how to launch and own a business, and how to manage and invest their money. It was so successful that the local community needed to move the program to a new neighborhood facility under the auspices of St. Vincent’s Episcopal House, a faith-based facility for social services. The school is now a neighborhood focal point and a model for low-income communities throughout the nation.

Van Allen also facilitated the building of the first new housing development in Galveston in over 20 years, providing technical assistance that helped lead to the construction of 40 new privately-owned homes in a location where a dilapidated housing project once stood. “Dr. Van Allen had a lot to do with planting the first seed to help make this happen,” said Galveston Mayor Roger Quiroga. The new housing gave many local residents their first opportunity to buy their own home.

A true public servant, Van Allen always works tirelessly at HUD, but does not crave accolades. “Terry is a very unassuming, but intelligent person,” said George Rodriguez, former HUD Houston field director. “He sees people as individuals who need an opportunity; a hand-up, not a hand-out. I believe that is what allows him to be successful in these communities.”

Van Allen is regarded as a true friend to the residents of the Old Central Carver Park neighborhood. “You can tell when people come to your community if they mean well, or if they’re doing it just because they have to do it,” Mayor Quiroga said. “He wants to be here and he wants to make a difference.” He clearly is. Just ask the people of Galveston.