City, state, county and school leaders have announced a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization initiative centered on making schools the hub of the community.
The program, to be piloted in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood in a 10-block radius around Detroit Public Schools’ J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy, will expand to cover neighborhoods surrounding eight other Detroit schools.
Housing rehabilitation, blight removal, cleanup and beautification, placement of social workers in schools, demolition of dangerous buildings, lighting, recreation and maintaining safe routes to schools are among the components of work to be undertaken by five state agencies, the City of Detroit, the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, volunteer and nonprofit groups, neighborhood associations, corporate and private partners, and Detroit Public Schools. The project comes after six months of cross-agency planning and local community involvement.
The schools were chosen by Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy S. Roberts in close consultation with state and city officials based on demographic data, strong parental and community involvement and the district’s long term commitments to the schools’ academic programs and physical facilities.
A key component of the collaborative effort will be the opening of Family Resource Centers and deployment of social workers into schools by the State of Michigan Department of Human Services under its Pathways to Potential program. Truancy will be a key focus for the Family Resource Centers, and DHS social workers will be focused on removing barriers to attending school, including hunger, transportation and childcare, and behavior and educational challenges. The DHS social worker will connect clients with the resources that address the challenges that may be keeping the child from attending classes.
In the Morningside neighborhood, a Family Resource Center has opened inside of Clark Academy. Beyond ensuring that children are attending school and have access to the resources necessary to be successful, the Family Resource Center will be equally supportive of the neighborhood’s families with job placement assistance and connections to both public and non-profit resources, and assistance with rent, utilities and food. The Family Resource Center will become a central hub of the neighborhood through its extensive partnerships with organizations that have committed to supporting the needs of the community.
Morningside Community Organization President O’Dell Tate said, "We are on the pathway to victory and have a great team to help reach our goals. Let's continue to build a community on the rise."
The school hub model is based on the success of the DHS partnership with Kent School Services Network (KSSN), where DHS social workers have been embedded in 15 schools, including Sibley and Burton Schools, since 2005. Sibley School moved from being one of the lowest performing schools to one of the highest performing schools in Grand Rapids Public Schools, and truancy issues dropped from more than 50% to one-fifth of one percent.
Mayor Dave Bing said, "I welcome the opportunity to join with Governor Snyder and Roy Roberts in this collaborative effort to revitalize our city. It is imperative to maximize the resources we each bring to the challenging process of transforming Detroit for the benefit of our citizens."
Gov. Snyder said, "This initiative is more than tearing down dangerous structures. It's about revitalization and diverse partners working together to address multiple factors that help ensure safe, stable neighborhoods and make a real, sustained difference for kids, families and communities. We're honored to work alongside Roy Roberts, Mayor Bing and so many others to help make this a reality. This is truly teamwork in action."
The Morningside/Clark project includes work by Handyman Ministries to renovate six homes, clear lots, board up 21 vacant properties, and conduct five full-block cleanups adjacent to the school including neighborhood barbeques for six days concluding August 4. Handyman Ministries is a non-profit community revitalization organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families by providing residential homeowners with free home maintenance and repair services, energy audits, and efficiency upgrades as well as necessary home modifications for the physically disabled.
Clark students will participate in a beautification project on the school property that will include planting perennials, bushes and placing mulch around trees.
The demolition of 200+ homes in the blocks surrounding Clark has commenced utilizing mortgage settlement funds approved last week by the Michigan legislature. Houses were prioritized based on community feedback, public ownership and expedited Treasurer and environmental processes.
Morningside this year was targeted by Habitat for Humanity for its “Leaders to Rebuild Detroit” multi-year, $25 million housing construction rehabilitation project spurred by a $1 million personal gift by General Motors Chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson and his wife, Karin. In June, Lear Corporation Chief Executive and President Matthew Simoncini announced a three-year, $1.5 million academic achievement initiative centered around 200 paid high school tutors working with Clark students.
In addition to Clark Academy, DPS schools around which the 10-block hub focus will be implemented are: Bagley, Bates, Bennett, Clemente, East English Village Preparatory Academy, Harms and Neinas, as well as Phoenix Academy, an Education Achievement Authority School.
The DHS’ Pathways to Potential program involving the creation of Family Resource Centers and deployment of social workers into schools will expand to elementary schools in Pontiac, Saginaw and Flint.