Term Paper: Streets of Hope -- the Fall

Pages: 6 (1618 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Urban Studies  ·  Buy This Paper

Streets of Hope -- the Fall and Rise of an Urban Community

In Streets of Hope Peter Medoff and Holly Sklar demonstrate the hope, pride and determination are vital components of any community restoration project. In this ground breaking work the authors demonstrate how a community plagued by poverty and destitution still may rise up from the ashes and transform into a community filled with grace and beauty.

The authors work diligently to describe how collaborative community actions that involve all citizens may not only strengthen urban communities but also help rebuild them in a positive light. Their work is supported by research conducted by several other authors who all support community based initiatives for restoring low income, inner city communities to their pride and glory.

Streets of Hope The Fall and Rise of an Urban Community written by Peter Medoff and Holly Sklar discusses a community that transforms itself from the inside out. Specifically the work discusses the tale of the Dudley Street neighborhood, which lies between Roxbury and Dorchester. The Dudley neighborhood as the authors define it is a "story of community rebirth" shaped "by the dreams of ordinary people of different races and generations" (Medoff & Sklar 1). For many years the town led a tawdry existence, suffering an "earthquake" that led to entire sections of vacant lots and devalued properties (Medoff & Sklar, 3). Abandonment, arson and "disinvestment" are all problems that plagued Dudley homes and residents for many years (Medoff & Sklar 2).

The authors present many ideas in their work. The primary suggestion or point the authors attempt to bring is that the "power of hope and pride" go a long way toward organizing and rebuilding developments when applied properly (Medoff & Sklar 3). Though the population within the Dudley community was generally poor and young and suffering from unemployment, the neighborhood still demonstrates some of the most diversity and industriousness of any other Boston town (Medoff & Sklar 3).

The authors also show that stereotypical images of inner city neighborhoods that commonly depict areas "full of hoodlums and not neighborly" do not apply in all cases including that of the Dudley district (Medoff & Sklar 4). In fact, despite the poverty and underemployment represented in this community, people retained values and a sense of collaboration and camaraderie.

Medoff & Sklar attempt to challenge the reader to view inner city residents not as people with problems but rather as people with hope and solutions when community development efforts reinforce resources within communities (Medoff & Sklar 4). The work also encourages individuals in communities like Dudley to become active participants in their future, working together to take stock off any community assets that do exist and making the most of them.

Within the Dudley neighborhood presented in the work one is able to differentiate diverse leadership. Inner city youth are encouraged "to nurture the positive power" that exists within them and to play a dynamic and inspirational role in community efforts (Medoff & Sklar 4). The authors show how with organization and inspiration residents are capable of creating a new identity and power that is capable of moving mountains, if not governments. Within this little community the citizens living within and collaborating together slowly learn to become "visionaries" capable of redeveloping a community into something remarkable and worthwhile (Medoff & Sklar 4). Collaboration among community members, residents and government agents are necessary in this case to unite the Dudley community and create something "warm and beautiful" from something that was initially hopeless and ugly (Medoff & Sklar 5). Among the aims of community members within this small town include creating a small and sustainable, "mutually beneficial and multicultural community" (Medoff & Sklar 5).

Reflections On Reading

Medoff & Sklar's work is truly inspirational. The authors not only acknowledge the stereotypes that exist with respect to inner city developments, but shed new light and bring new hope to people living in these communities. The authors suggest that people within a community can collaborate to make a difference and rebuild communities in a positive light, no matter how diverse the population. The authors also show how diversity may actually enable communities to pull together more successfully in a mutually beneficial manner. According to the authors, the people living in Dudley are "pathfinders, guided by a vision of the future in which no one is disposable" (Medoff & Sklar 5).

This is perhaps the most important message the authors have to share. It is vital that administrators begin collaborating with inner city residents to share with them the notion that every person offers something unique and valuable to a community. As the authors suggest, people must work together, "mixing old fabric and new" to create and rebuild existing communities (Medoff & Sklar 5).

Messinger (2004) & O'Connor (1995) support the idea that comprehensive community initiatives are necessary to revitalize inner city residences. The researchers highlight recent initiatives referred to as comprehensive community initiatives as a means to redevelop and rebuild disadvantaged communities throughout the nation. These initiatives focus on using "coalitions of public and private agencies, religious affiliates, neighborhood groups, community leaders and individuals" to work collaboratively to help redevelop communities in a positive manner (Messinger 535).

Still other proponents of collaborative measures to restore communities suggest that community based initiatives are the best approach for addressing problems that exist within urban communities (Ewalt 413). It is vital that communities develop multiple strategies or comprehensive systems to tackle complex problems on multiple levels (Messinger 535). Single strategy approaches according to the current body of research will likely help alleviate some community problems but not all. Among the important areas to tack or address within urban communities include the following: housing rehabilitation, school reform, health care provisions, day care and neighborhood beautification projects (Messinger 535).

These are all issues that Medoff & Sklar also point as key toward not only rebuilding the Dudley neighborhood but also instilling residents with a sense of pride and camaraderie with respect to their efforts and the community.

Medoff & Sklar emphasize the importance of citizenship and camaraderie in their work, to help inspire leadership and pride in the community. This sentiment is echoed by other researchers (Messinger 535; O'Connor 25). Medoff & Sklar further emphasize that components of a successful community intervention program such as that of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) must include organizing local residents, offering services to youths, developing new housing and coordinating campaigns that fight back against redlining and local dumping among other problems (Messinger 535).

Diverse groups of citizens participated in the DSNI renovation project, suggesting that participate are willing to be involved in all stages of community intervention. Low income groups were particularly likely to participate in outreach programs and sponsored initiatives (Medoff & Sklar 1994).

Messinger suggests that community building must start with processes that enable communities to determine what assets they have, what the skills and capabilities are of residents and citizens associations and what local institution are available for support (p. 535). This sentiment is also confirmed by the DSNI project, which follows a similar protocol. The DSNI project went on to identify multiple problems within the community and address them. Some examples of problems needing attention included poverty, lack of adequate housing and sanitation and arson; however the community also identified assets which included but were not limited to pride within the community, racial harmony, racial tolerance and a determination on the part of residents to "keep the area livable" (Messinger 535).

Urban communities stand to gain much by following the example established by the DSNI project described in Medoff & Sklar's book. Clearly the steps taken to strengthen and rebuild the community and economy are supported by other researchers and government agencies currently working with urban communities. A strengths-based approach seems… [END OF PREVIEW]

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