Robert Woodson would probably wince if you called him a “community organizer.” That’s because for the last 30 years as president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, he has not spent time organizing the poor around ineffective government programs and other addictions he has been helping them become self-sufficient.

“You can’t learn anything by studying failure,” he says. “If you want to learn anything, you must study the successful.”

I spent last Tuesday riding around Washington and Waldorf, Md., visiting housing projects Woodson’s organization supports and studying his success. I met former drug addicts, dealers, prostitutes and pimps — all of whom testify to having been through failed government programs — who now say they are clean, sober and off the streets.

The keys are discipline, raised expectations, a family atmosphere infused with tough love, imposed morality and yes, hope.

Cost estimates for the “war on poverty” vary, but most put it in the trillions of dollars. That war hasn’t been won. Record numbers are on food stamps.

Woodson says the difference between programs he supports and others is that he “takes time-tested principles and virtues and applies them to addictions, homelessness and other conditions. We have moral consistency.”

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