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Edgewood Is Changing

The following post was written by Derrick Beasley, Community Support Liaison at Alliance for Children and Families member agency Families First in Atlanta, Georgia. Families First, through its multiple locations, collaborations with community partners, and virtual services responds whenever and wherever they are needed. Families First is a 120+ year old organization that is building strategy to go beyond direct service and lead a cultural transformation to galvanize community responsibility for all children. Derrick was a member of the first cohort of New Voices Civic Engagement Fellows in 2011.
I recently read an article on Colorlines.com that detailed gentrification in Oakland, California. The article caused me to reflect on a similar, yet different transition in the Edgewood neighborhood on the East side of Atlanta.
As community organizer and family coach first entering the neighborhood three years ago, I quickly noticed that Edgewood was a neighborhood undergoing some serious changes. If you drive through the neighborhood today, you will notice a relatively new retail district anchored by major retailers including Target, Best Buy and Lowes, several newly renovated homes, a few residential construction projects, a large, old and highly subsidized housing development, several churches and several abandoned or dilapidated single family dwellings.  This is not a particularly unique scenario in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Atlanta.
While neighborhoods in Oakland are experiencing tension related to affordability of housing, the tension in Edgewood and its adjacent, also-gentrifying neighborhoods is coming to a head in the form of public education.  As the city struggles to recover from a school district-wide cheating scandal, and enrollment in public schools in Edgewood drops, the neighborhood has seen an influx of influence from its newer, more affluent residents.  Issues of race and class have arisen from both sides of the debate over what to do with neighborhood schools whose effectiveness has been brought into question.  These issues have been a threat to the progress of Edgewood for the last several years. However the same issues that pose a major challenge also make it poised to transform into a neighborhood inhabited by a diverse, thriving population.
Between place-based philanthropic efforts and other nonprofit entities, Edgewood has more than a few organizations and individuals committed to ensuring those with the least resources still have a voice in the change that is coming to the neighborhood. My organization, Families First, is committed to building capacity of the current parent voice in the neighborhood while building bridges to the newer parent voice to ensure a unified vision for education. While there are pieces of this puzzle that are outside  our sphere of influence, we know that we can equip parents whose voices have not been heard in the past with the tools to amplify their voices and communicate their own vision for their community to those in positions of power.  We also know that change can be a positive thing for Edgewood as long as it is built on a foundation of equity, inclusion and respect.

HUD Lauds Chicago-area Program for Equitable Development

A recent article from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Policy Development and Research division focused on the importance of ensuring equity in communities’ smart growth plans. HUD’s definition of “smart growth,” in this case, included intentional thinking and planning to support “safe, healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities.” Regional collaboration in the Chicago area was specifically cited as a model of intentionally supporting equity in housing development.
The Chicago Regional Housing Choice Initiative (CRHCI) officially launched with the help of HUD in 2011, but has been working as a multi-sector collaborative effort to address affordable housing concerns since 1999. HUD supports the CRCHI pilot in part to demonstrate “if mobility counseling and the regional administration of local PHA resources can give families desirable location outcomes while reducing government costs and administrative burdens.” The Initiative consists of eight area PHAs, the Metropolitan Planning Council, HUD, and a non-profit partner.
These Chicago-area partners were motivated to address affordable housing and equity issues because of the region’s growing imbalance between jobs and affordable housing, and fears that these developments threatened the region’s economic competitiveness. Simply put: people could not find affordable housing on the incomes provided by the area’s fastest growing labor markets. The mismatch of jobs, labor needs, housing, and affordability meant that residents could often not afford to live near their jobs and neighborhoods became increasingly segregated by income.
To begin to address these issues, CRHCI encourages families to use Housing Choice Vouchers to facilitate access to different neighborhoods, spurs the construction of mixed-income housing, and provides mobility counseling to families seeking affordable housing. The pilot project has had successes—345 vouchers provide subsidies in 28 communities, with more than 1,700 apartments either in use or in development. CRCHI also uses data from HUD to map the region using an “opportunity index” which assesses neighborhood quality based on housing stability, job access, and transit access. The information helps CRHCI identify “high-opportunity areas” that may be suitable sites for ongoing affordable housing development.
CRCHI’s success demonstrates that with intentionality and planning, affordable housing development can be equitable and financially shrewd. Ultimately, creating a regional collaborative of partners helped keep housing affordable and convenient for many. Rather than isolating lower-income families, CRCHI’s efforts help to integrate all income levels into smart growth neighborhoods that are beneficial for both community building and regional economic competitiveness.

White House Announces Seven New SC2 Communities

Last week, the White House officially announced that seven new communities will participate in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative. The seven communities to receive the SC2 designation this year are Brownsville, TX; Flint, MI; Gary, IN; Macon, GA; Rockford, IL; St. Louis, MO; and Rocky Mount, NC. SC2 is “an innovative and flexible program designed to strengthen local capacity, coordinate federal investments, and spark growth in economically distressed communities.” Cities participating in the initiative receive the assistance of federal inter-agency teams working alongside local government and organizations to address problems of persistent poverty.
The seven new cities will try to replicate the success seen in the first class of SC2 participants-- Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Youngstown, OH. Each of these seven pilot cities received help from a federal SC2 team beginning in 2012 to improve efficiency of services and better use hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Projects in SC2 cities focus on economic development, housing, transportation, public safety, and public health. SC2 is an integral piece of the Obama administration’s commitment to place-based neighborhood revitalization policy and creating “ladders of opportunity” for communities blighted by long-term poverty.
Ron Clewer, CEO of Alliance member organization the Rockford Housing Authority, expressed excitement about what the designation means for the people of Rockford: “Originally being placed on the list as a possible applicant comes with the challenge of recognizing your community's struggles and opportunities. Being named an SC2 City is a great opportunity for us (public and private leadership) to better align our organizations and programs for the greatest potential improvement for our community.”
A key feature of SC2 is creating strategic partnerships between private, non-profit, and government resources to find sustainable solutions tailored to the needs of a specific community. Every community is unique and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to spur community and economic development. The administration is also committed to measuring the impacts of SC2 and other neighborhood revitalization initiatives. In April 2013, the White House released the first Annual Report on SC2. We encourage you to read the report on the first year of SC2, as well as project descriptions from the first class of SC2 designees and the newest class. This type of programming represents a new direction in federal policy and shows a welcome commitment to neighborhood revitalization at the Executive level.

Educare DC Revamps Early Childhood Education

The following post was written by Monica Bandy, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families and United Neighborhood Centers of America's Public Policy Office. She is a graduate student and a former Head Start teacher, who has been closely monitoring proposed early childhood education reform this summer.
The Alliance and UNCA public policy office had the chance to visit Educare D.C. this week, a partner of UNCA member organization, DCPNI. The Educare model has received wide acclaim for its blending of public and private funding, and for its record of successful student outcomes beyond third grade. Educare D.C. offers early learning opportunities for eligible children ages 6 weeks to 5 years in D.C. Wards 5,7, and 8. According to an Educare implementation study conducted at Educare Chicago, 74% of students who attended Educare met or exceeded state standards in math, and 67% met or exceeded state standards in reading at grade 3, higher rates than students who did not attend Educare.
Educare D.C. has a beautiful facility with lots of natural light and outdoor space for children to learn, play, and grow. It is a full day, full year preschool, with low student to staff ratios. The minimum amount of experience required to be a teacher aide at Educare D.C. is 5 years, with an emphasis placed on employment longevity. Educare D.C. hires experienced teachers who will stay with the program to provide “continuity of care” in which teachers progress from classroom to classroom with their students. Children have the same teacher from ages 0-3 and from ages 3-5. Each classroom has a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and there are several master teachers on site, who have master’s degrees in early childhood education. Several support staff ranging from an eligibility specialist to mental health consultants are on site to serve children and their families.
Educare D.C. is also strategically placed within the community, next to Thomas Elementary School. The strategic placement ensures that it is accessible to families in the community. Additionally, the strategic location helps parents and children prepare for the transition to Elementary school. Pre-school is a child’s first encounter with school, but it is also a parent’s first brush with the school system in the parental role. Educare D.C. keeps this in mind and offers resources to parents so that they can become the best possible advocates for their child. Home visiting is also done on a monthly basis. Parents have access to computers to search for employment and housing, as well as a family engagement specialist who can help parents navigate the Educare system, and facilitate positive relationships between parents and teachers.
Educare D.C. is a unique public/private model that highlights the importance of the first 5 years on a child’s growth and development, and provides quality comprehensive early childhood education to an underserved neighborhood. Early signs indicate models such as Educare, with strategic neighborhood placement, parent engagement, teacher supports, and classroom continuity, may go far in closing the achievement gap among lower-income students. Educare empowers neighborhoods to build on the biggest strength of any community-its children.

Help Harlem Children’s Zone with their Cradle to Career Research

Guest blogger, Betina Jean-Louis, Director of Evaluation at Harlem Children’s Zone, has an exciting research effort underway. She and Geoff Canada invite you to participate in their Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey.  Read more about the Harlem Children’s Zone research effort and how you can be involved below:

We at Harlem Children’s Zone are seeking your assistance with a Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey; the message below from Geoff Canada, the head of the agency, provides some more information about the effort.  We would appreciate two types of support: (1) taking 10-15 minutes as a practitioner who is involved in this kind of work to help us better understand your efforts for and in your communities and (2) forwarding this request for completion of the survey to practitioners in your networks far and wide.  The more we know about the work on the ground, the better we will be able to advocate for continuing support.

Please note:

  • We will NOT share community- or organization-specific data with anyone under any circumstances.
  • Survey responders will be able to indicate whether they wish to receive a copy of the forthcoming summary report.

We appreciate UNCA’s help in helping us to get this disseminated!  A message from Geoff with additional information about the survey follows.


Betina Jean-Louis, Ph.D.
Director of Evaluation
Harlem Children’s Zone


Dear Building Neighborhoods Blog ,

To get a clearer picture of what is going on in the field, the Harlem Children’s Zone is reaching out to groups like yours that are creating or have created cradle-to-career pipelines that support the education and success of poor children.  We would like you to complete a Cradle to Career Neighborhood Survey that can be found here.  Those of us who are proponents of this approach are often asked about these efforts.  We would love to be able to provide aggregate-level information such as the following:

  • The number and type of communities doing the work
  • The types of programs included
  • The scope of the efforts

We believe that the field can be better supported when stakeholders and advocates (such as the Harlem Children's Zone, the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink partner organizations, the funding community, and government agencies) are in a better position to address some very fundamental questions about your efforts.  By completing the survey, you will help us all to more accurately represent the magnitude of the work.

Your participation in this survey is voluntary and you may choose to skip any questions. All the information you provide will be confidential; your name or your organization’s name will not be included in any reports, and your responses will not be reported individually to anyone.  We simply want to understand what is happening across the country.

The survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete. We hope you will participate and help us make available the valuable information that will allow us all to know where innovative strategies are being used to improve poor children’s lives.

Ideally, this survey should be completed by the individual in your organization who knows the most about this work.  If you are not that individual, please take a moment to determine who would be the best respondent and forward this request to him or her.  The person completing the survey can follow this link.  We would appreciate completion of the survey by Friday, June 14th.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of poor children and families.



PS- if the hyperlink above does not work, the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CradleToCareer


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by Dr. Radut