Funding cut to cost jobs of half the city's Community Partners
By GEORGIA PABST
Posted: Dec. 1, 2006
A program touted for its street-by-street, house-to-house work with city residents to quell crime and improve neighborhoods will be cut in half next year because of a loss of funds.
Deborah Blanks, CEO of the Social Development Commission, which operates Community Partners, said money for the program has been cut from $1.1 million in 2006 to about $780,000 for 2007. That means that instead of 20 Community Partners working in targeted neighborhoods, there will be nine next year, she said.
Community Partners is part of the city's Safe and Sound crime fighting initiative, which started in 1998. It includes 36 after-school Safe Places for children, law enforcement efforts targeting gangs, drugs and guns, and the Community Partners.
The partners are assigned to specific areas of the city. They go door to door providing information on neighborhood meetings, help set up block watch groups, and provide information on government and community resources to help residents become more involved in their neighborhoods.
"The partners are a very critical element to the Safe and Sound initiative," said Barbara Notestein, executive director of Safe and Sound. She said she's not sure what the effect of the reduction in the partners program will have on the anti-crime efforts.
"We will be reviewing the way we prioritize the neighborhoods and the amount of time that can be spent in those neighborhoods and try to focus on the hardest hit areas and use the resources the best we can," she said.
She said Safe and Sound will try to raise money for the partners program.
County Supervisor Peggy West said the program makes an impact because it involves both residents and law enforcement.
"There's no other program like it in the city," she said.
She said partners helped organize neighborhood meetings that led to the eventual closing of a drug house on S. 9th St.
"That neighborhood turned around by about 80 percent," she said.
Tom Schneider, executive director of the COA Youth and Family Centers, and a Safe and Sound board member who helped start the initiative when he was U.S. attorney, said additional resources to support 20 Community Partners are still being sought.
While Safe and Sound has continued its financial support for the partners program, the Social Development Commission has suffered funding cuts, he said.
Community Partners is funded through a combination of federal and state funds. Blanks said the lost funds for the program include a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and a $100,000 grant from the state Brighter Futures program. The commission applied for additional funds from other agencies, but the money has not materialized, she said.
Jacquelyn Jaggard, a resident of the Historic Walker's Point neighborhood, said Community Partner Lucy Roman has helped English and Spanish speakers work together on block watches and crime prevention.
She said Roman, who speaks Spanish, also helped organize neighborhood cleanups and set up the Walker's Point Walkers, residents who walk around the neighborhood once a month with her and other officials to point out problems and issues in the neighborhood.
"We got to know some of our neighbors more," Jaggard said. "Lucy's been wonderful."
Roman, who has been a Community Partner since the program started eight years ago, is one of the partners scheduled to be laid off.