When Focus: HOPE CEO William Jones took the helm of the nonprofit earlier this year, he looked at its success during its first 40 years in a different way.
He stressed all of the good work the nonprofit had done in the past, but said “"we give people training to get jobs that will allow them to move out of this community,'” said Brenda Knight, Detroit program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Jones said the nonprofit needed to look further at improving schools, housing stock and the business community in its north central Detroit neighborhood so that people would be willing to not only stay but move into the area.
Focus: HOPE now is ramping up its community and economic development as part of an emerging “Promise Neighborhood” concept, something President Barack Obama has touted as a model he'd like to see expanded across the country to revitalize impoverished urban areas.
Modeled after the touted Harlem Children's Zone in New York, the Focus: HOPE neighborhood project would be the first of its kind in Detroit.
The project is bounded by Hamilton on the east, Dexter on the west, Davison on the south and the Lodge service drive to the north. It includes a slice of Highland Park, but is mostly in Detroit.
With Focus: HOPE as the anchor, the project will layer nonprofit services for children and families — with a focus on education.
The backbone will be preschool through 12th-grade programs, working with schools in the neighborhood that build on Focus: HOPE's Center for Children, Jones said.
“This is an expansion of what Focus: HOPE has been doing,” said board chairwoman Glenda Price, who is retired president of Marygrove College and former interim director of the Michigan Colleges Foundation.
“A lot of the pieces for this concept are already in place, but they haven't been connected in this way or restricted to a neighborhood,” she said.
The project, backed by a $50,000 planning grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, also will stress economic development through joint projects with other agencies, he said.
During his campaign, Obama talked about the Harlem Children's Zone as a model for Promise Neighborhoods — federally funded neighborhoods with an anchor institution providing services, Price said.
Those services would include working with schools on education, community organizations to enhance health care, community development organizations and developers to improve housing stock, and creating community gardens.
“There's no federal funding for this concept yet, but we are moving ahead,” said Price.
A $10,000 grant from the Knight Fund, housed at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, funded a trip for executives from Focus: HOPE, the Neighborhood Service Organization and Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp. to benchmark the Harlem Children's Zone in June.
“There are no demonstrations in Detroit of a community that's working on this holistic approach,” said Brenda Price, who helps advise the Community Foundation on grants made from the Knight Fund.
The nonprofit is doing the right thing in advance of any federal money for such programs, said Price, a member of the steering committee advising Focus: HOPE.
Even if federal funding doesn't come through, the project will move forward, said Jones.
Source: Crain's Detroit Business
Date: August 23, 2009
By: Sherri Begin Welch