Homewood Children’s Village, Civic Complacency
Quietly, so far, an exciting change is developing in Homewood. A project called the Homewood Children’s Village is taking shape with the aim of bringing a wide array of social services to bear to help youngsters survive and thrive in one of Pittsburgh’s toughest neighborhoods.
The leader of the Homewood project is John Wallace, a Homewood native and associate professor of social work at the University of Pittsburgh. Also involved in the effort is a widespread group of leaders and organizations, including the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, several local foundations, the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Rand and many others.
Based on New York’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone project, the Homewood Children’s Village is the kind of broad-based community effort that can make a difference in the lives of the whole Homewood community. And any way you look at it, Homewood needs it. Some 48 percent of the properties in this East End neighborhood are vacant. The community is plagued by drugs and crime. School dropout rates are four times the city average. Test scores are significantly below average. One in four teenage girls is pregnant.
To get a view of the situation, Google search “one square mile Homewood Children’s Village” and watch an excellent video funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation.
Pittsburgh cannot afford to leave thousands of its children behind. And while the Village program remains in its early stages, we’re putting it on a pedestal because it’s the kind of community collaboration we need. Keep your eye on the Homewood Children’s project.
In the stocks: Civic complacency
Over the past two years, times have been tough across the country. They’ve been hard for many Pittsburghers too, but our region has enjoyed a relative prosperity among cities and a resurgence in the national consciousness.
Pittsburgh has gained recognition for livability in a variety of national and international rankings. Our unemployment rate is much lower than most cities. Downtown is bursting with new life. And after decades of having more people leaving than moving in, that trend has reversed.
Yet it is hardly time to rest on our laurels. The greatest threat to our continued advancement is a sense of complacency and a feeling that the job is finished. To underscore that, we’re putting such complacency in the stocks this issue. This is not to say we citizens shouldn’t feel pride in the decades-long effort to turn Pittsburgh in the right direction. But we face challenges we must address if we want to keep it going.
For the past 25 years, Pittsburgh has compared favorably with other cities in economic measures only during recessions. Afterwards, we have lagged as other cities moved ahead. We face government deficits poised to explode because of pension obligations. And the projects we celebrate now were planned years ago.
We Pittsburghers must look ahead and fill the pipeline with new projects. We must fuel economic and job growth, solve our government problems, and build new ambition for our region. Having a governor from greater Pittsburgh is an opportunity we cannot waste. Our future will be the result of what we envision and plan now.