In our last newsletter we talked about suburbs. We challenged you to walk the neighborhood that you got data about, with a friend. Walking different parts on different days and asking God to show you things and afterwards you were to fill out the Urban Survey.
In this newsletter, we are going to hear about Mrs. Brown's urban neighborhood.
Mrs. Brown is in her 70's and has lived in her neighborhood, southeast of the city center on the East Coast, for 40 years. She knows many people in her neighborhood and is an accepted informal leader. She wants to see her neighborhood change as it has become really run down and has major problems with graffiti and broken down cars littering the area.
Most of the homes in the neighborhood are 80-100 year old row houses (like townhouses but with each home adjacent to the next). When they were built they were near the city center and very desirable, but as the years passed the homes became run down and the neighborhood became less desirable. During the past 40 years it became home to mostly poor, and many families who were on welfare and supporting dependent children moved in. Many of these houses became women led because they were not eligible to draw government support if the husband lived in the house. On the outskirts of the neighborhood are two subsidized government-housing complexes. One has 350 units and the other is a 250-unit complex that houses mostly immigrants.
The neighborhood is diverse ethnically and economically. There are some who are on welfare, others who would be considered working poor, some new immigrants struggling daily to get by, and others who hold well paying jobs. Older people, who have lived there for many years, occupy some of the row houses. They live on limited income and cannot keep their homes up because they have no family support system to help them. Other row houses are drug houses occupied by younger people. But because the area is close to the city center, multiple professionals have also bought the old row houses and fixed them up.
The primary businesses are on the edges of the neighborhood with ethnic restaurants and mom and pop business. There are no major grocery stores so food is expensive. Because the neighborhood is close to the city center there are expensive restaurants and stores that few of the neighbors can afford.
There are some informal groups (volunteer associations) functioning in the area, including a neighborhood association that is not functioning very well even though Mrs. Brown tries to keep it going. Most of the other informal groups are built around the specific interests of their participants. At one time an inventory of the peoples assets, skills, knowledge and interests had been taken of people in the neighborhood.
They had a government sponsored five-year "Weed and Seed" program that mobilized the community to make their area more secure. Several businesses came into the neighborhood and had some impact by providing jobs for local people. Gangs had been a major problem before the "Weed and Seed" program, but recently things seem to be better.
There is a neighborhood elementary school that has low-test scores and 83% of the students are on subsidized lunches. They need tutors to help the children, and Mrs. Brown is one of them.
There are 18 churches in the neighborhood, with only one open during the week. Most churches meet in storefronts and the rest meet in the older church buildings that have existed for many years. The church buildings are generally only used on Sundays. Many of the church members no longer live in the neighborhood. The members are people that lived in the neighborhood but moved to a nicer part of town. They keep coming back because they feel like they belong to their church and do not fit in the churches nearer their homes. Even many of the pastors do not live in the neighborhood and are working other jobs to support their families.