GUEST COLUMN: The Atlanta model for reviving poor neighborhoods – Rome News-Tribune: Local

13
Jan

GUEST COLUMN: The Atlanta model for reviving poor neighborhoods – Rome News-Tribune: Local

America’s greatest untapped resource isn’t hidden in the ground but is sitting in plain sight: the human capital trapped in poor neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. The people living where crime and incarceration are rampant represent trillions of dollars in potential economic activity. Investing in their well-being can be a social and economic game-changer, but only if done in a way that produces results.

For a half-century, charities, nonprofits and local and federal governments have poured billions of dollars into addressing the problems plaguing these Americans. But each issue tends to be treated separately — as if there is no connection between a safe environment and a child’s ability to learn, or high-school dropout rates and crime. This scattershot method hasn’t worked. A better approach is to invest comprehensively in small, geographically defined neighborhoods.

That’s what our East Lake Foundation has discovered, focusing on one corner of southeast Atlanta. Fifteen years ago, East Lake Meadows, a public-housing project with 1,400 residents, was a terrifying place to live. Nine out of 10 residents had been victims of a crime. Today it is a safe community of working, taxpaying families whose children excel in the classroom.

How did this happen to a place that police officers once wouldn’t go without backup? We targeted a single neighborhood in 1993 and worked with community and city leaders on every major issue at the same time: mixed-income housing, a cradle-to-college education program, job readiness, and health and wellness opportunities.

The results are stunning. Violent crime is down more than 90 percent. Crime overall is down 73 percent — a level 50 percent better than the rest of Atlanta. Employment among families on welfare has increased to 70 percent from 13 percent in 1995. (The other 30 percent are elderly, disabled or in job training.)

via GUEST COLUMN: The Atlanta model for reviving poor neighborhoods – Rome News-Tribune: Local.

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