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Continued: Neighborhood

“We want to reverse that by having residents identify what their community concerns are, and to have them actively work together to change them,” Pitner said. “We want to focus on community engagement.”

The goal for the first year is to identify concerns about crime and safety in the community. This will be done through a methodology called PhotoVoice, in which teens and adults will document the strengths and concerns of their community through photographs. Their photographs will be used to spark discussions about what is going on in the community and what changes should be made.

That work has already started through a grant from USC’s Arts and Humanities Grant Program that enabled seven youths in the community to start capturing aspects of their neighborhood through photographs. In the coming months, adults will also work on the PhotoVoice project, which will culminate in an exhibit that will open Jan. 18, 2011 at McKissick Museum.

During the second year of the grant, a community-empowerment center will be established to provide technical assistance to residents who want to improve their community.

“One of the interventions is going to be a community garden. Spaces that beautify the community, where people come together and build relationships, have been proven to reduce crime and violence in communities,” she said.

In the final year, the community members will implement the ideas.

“Our approach is centered around sustainability,” Freedman said. “We want to make sure whatever is developed can continue beyond the life cycle of the grant.

Also, a rigorous evaluation, including surveys, an environmental inventory and a police crime analysis, will be conducted at the beginning and end of the study to see how the neighborhood has changed.

“We hope residents will feel safer in their communities and will have a greater sense of ownership of their community,” Pitner said. “When residents have that sense of ownership, they actively do things to make their community better.”

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Kresge grant

  • What: Three-year grant, worth $650,000, to help residents improve quality of life in neighborhoods
  • Who: Kresge Foundation is a $3.1 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations
  • Where: Public-housing neighborhoods in and around downtown Columbia

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