Meetings with more than 400 Pittsburgh residents informed a new report on the needs of the city’s most vulnerable communities and recommendations about how to address the issues.
The report, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition and compiled by the Homewood Children’s Village’s Office of Research and Evaluation, covers six topic areas: public safety, affordable housing, family outcomes, businesses and organizations, education and employment.
According to Children’s Village’s Dr. Shannah Tharp-Gilliam, 448 residents from 41 “vulnerable communities” participated in six meetings held in the North Side, Hill District, Homewood, Sheraden, South Side and at Carlow University.
“This is a phase 1 report. This is the beginning of the process,” she said, when asked about her takeaways from those meetings, adding to the coalition that there should be “milestones and metrics that you continue to report out to your constituents.”
The coalition — City Councilmen Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle; County Councilman DeWitt Walton; and Reps. Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley — discussed the report at the City-County building Thursday afternoon. They will present the report to the community tonight at 6 p.m. at the Rodman Missionary Baptist Church in East Liberty.
Fred Brown, president and CEO of Homewood Children’s Village, said he was concerned about the focus on here-and-now problems at the meetings — not where these communities are headed. A lot of HCV’s work is triage, he said.
“If you’re bleeding, I gotta tend to your wound,” he said. “A lot of our work is just to stop the bleeding.”
Brown said there’s also “a lot of interest in talking about problems, but once that’s done, there’s a notion that it’s been resolved: … We talked about it, it’s over.”
There’s a need, he said, to engage “the next generation of Pittsburghers,” including those who are new to the city, and to better connect the groups that are already doing to hard work in the communities.
Below is a summary of the community concerns and recommendations of the six topics areas. Read the report here.
Community concerns: Crime, specifically gun violence; the poor relationship between black youth and the police; and a lack of diversity on the police force.
Report recommendations: Improve accountability and transparency; increase diversity by exposing young children to police careers; and establish a community-review board on police hires.
Concerns: Development threatening long-time residents; the poor condition of existing homes and vacant lots.
Recommendations: Increase accessibility to affordable housing; increase transparency from the city about where tax money is being spent; establish a funding stream for the affordable housing trust fund.
Pittsburgh City Council has approved the creation of a housing trust fund, but has yet to agree on a way to fund it. Lavelle said talks are still active with other members of the council and a possible increase of the realty-transfer tax increase is still in play.
Concerns: Accessibility to healthcare, especially for LGBTQ community, and to supportive services; lack of safe spaces for youth.
Recommendations: Add additional trash cans and funding for community gardens; increase access to buses and to the city’s bike share system.
Business and Organizations
Concerns: Lack of black- and minority-owned businesses; dearth of basic amenities such as grocery stores.
Recommendation: Support minority business owners, including through a mentoring system; create business incubators in these communities; business expos hosted by local politicians.
Concerns: Quality of public schools; low accessibility to childcare.
Recommendations: Expand career and technical education; increase job training via community college; create curriculum focused on African-American students; increase tutors and mentors who are African American; add affordable before- and after-school programs.
Concerns: A lack of educational opportunities and information sharing about job opportunities; the connection between poor housing conditions and employment.
Recommendations: Grow more businesses in these communities; remove “arbitrary” barriers to employment like a driver’s license requirement; create incentives to diversify workplaces.