Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teamwork Reverses Inner-City Decay

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teamwork Reverses Inner-City Decay

Article excerpt

Many political leaders and policy experts argue that revitalizing inner-city neighborhoods is an almost impossible task. They cite a long list of failed federal programs that have done little to improve the conditions of the impoverished. Their policy prescription is simple: Since nothing works, nothing should be done.

Abandoning inner cities would be disastrous. Neglect of inner-city residents was a major factor in the burning, looting and killing in South Central Los Angeles. Many American inner cities are already at a boiling point. Neglect and abandonment will only intensify the problem. People without a future, hope or a life become dangerous; citizens with jobs, housing and education realize a full life and the American dream.

Learning from the mistakes of the past, such cities as Baltimore, Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, Indianapolis and San Francisco are designing programs that can revitalize inner-city neighborhoods. A common thread that links these bold and innovative programs is the creation of local partnerships that unite business, community and government to create jobs, housing and educational opportunities.

When Louisville organized a partnership to help revitalize one of the nation's most impoverished neighborhoods, many observers thought it was an impossible job. In Louisville's Russell neighborhood, 79 percent of the 10,000 residents had incomes below the poverty level in 1990. The vast majority of the families (90 percent) were female-headed. Yearly household income averaged $4,800. Half the residents were on some form of public assistance. Unemployment hovered around 65 percent.

Despair, anger and contempt were omnipresent. Prostitution, crime and drugs were widespread problems. These conditions contributed to abandonment and neglect of housing.

Given these problems, most commentators thought it would be all but impossible to build even one house or create one job. Today, Russell is on the verge of a miracle. The neighborhood is undergoing a dramatic rebirth. Jobs and housing opportunities are being created. The crime rate has been cut almost in half.

Developers and nonprofit organizations have been given the necessary encouragement to build in the Russell neighborhood. …

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