Students from The Atlanta University Center (AUC), GA Tech and GA State in Atlanta have been working with citizens across the city the last couple of years on helping address and build accountability around the numbers of vacant homes and properties in certain communities. In supporting this work, I noticed that a lot of the data focused on income, transportation, stock market, real estate, business development, etc. Outside of tourism, rarely did the topic of children or families even surface. As time went by, I raised my hand and asked, “what about education?” It was found in research studies done that the large numbers of homeless children in the city attributed to the numbers of families displaced from now condemned or closed homes or apartment complexes. Blight does effect education and the development of children.
Abandoned homes equals closed schools. This is an effect of blight in Atlanta. The college students took their research and papers a step further. The worked with local NPU (Neighborhood Planning Units) specifically youth who wanted to address safe routes to school, gang violence and drug abuse which often takes places on streets in their neighborhoods with blighted homes. In fact, several youth talked about an incident last year when two young students, one killed, were attacked by pit bulls. The dogs dragged the slain student in the yard of a blighted home. One student said, “I’m not afraid to walk with my sister to the bus stop anymore but it is kinda scary at times walking by the empty homes. It’s like always wondering is something going to come out and get us!”
Blight Policy Proposals
#1 – Significantly Increasing Code Enforcements Budget
#2 – All Clean Streets Initiative
The “All Clean Streets Initiative” is an idea that could be the largest investment in a cleaner Atlanta than has been made in years. The Mayor, City Council and APS could partner together for this to a community based designed and lead by students. Propose to fund the purchase of 400 trash cans to be distributed citywide in areas dealing with litter and dumping. The cost of this is an estimated $175,000, along with costs associated with the public works department having to regularly empty receptacles. City and school district leadership can work with each NPU to determine littering hotspots in order to ensure that all receptacles are placed in the best locations. In addition, the second component of the “All Clean Streets Initiative” is to invest $175,000 per year for 4 years in a program to hire homeless men in Atlanta to pick up trash, while paying them a reasonable wage. The students of CRIM high school can provide meals for the men and the students can create a Donor’s Closet to provide changes of clothes for the men. Grants, partners, etc can also be This pilot program will be modeled after a successful launch of a similar program in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
#3 – Judges Getting Tough
#4 – Back To Life Tire Recycling Program
We have an innovative way to address tire dumping. Implement a program to select used tire shops to get tires. Once the city collects the tires, the Parks & Rec Department could set aside staff to use old tires as landscaping pieces, along with planting flowers in them. Once completed, they could be placed throughout parks in the city. This would beautify our already well-kept parks, and potentially cut down on dumping by getting to it before it even happens. This program can also be in partnership with our APS schools for students through service learning projects. The students would be able to create and maintain the project with the support of parks and recreation.
#5 – BuildATL.org
The city and school district leadership can create a program for students to design and build a website similar to Building Detroit.org, where those looking for vacant properties could be connected online to properties owned by the city, land bank, or Atlanta residents. This can be a career readiness technology partnership with G.A. Tech, APS, ARC and even Google for students who are learning computer program designing to participate.
We believe that our youth can be the future of changing the current issues with blight in our communities. Especially since its’s effecting the most critical time in their development.