Making a difference in Sandtown-Winchester

Better housing by itself isn't enough to transform the neighborhood.

Your recent article on Baltimore City's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood should have acknowledged that Sandtown revitalization efforts are far from over ("Saving Sandtown-Winchester: decade-long, multimillion-dollar investment questioned," May 10).

We must defend the community development nonprofit organizations who have been working tirelessly in West Baltimore for years and years. Housing opportunities are important, but they don't transform neighborhoods on their own. Systemic change relies on a number of factors, many of which were absent in Sandtown.

In addition to quality, affordable housing for a diverse population, for example, there must be drug treatment options available when needed. Children must have after-school and summer school activities that provide meals. Job training programs tied to employer needs and subsidized equipment are needed to fill job openings when they occur.

Moreover, efficient public transportation is needed to get people to those jobs. Job training programs in Sandtown do little to help residents if there's no way for them to reach workplaces in the suburbs.

Other needed systemic changes include financial literacy and housing counseling, which are critical for strong, financially-sound families. Quality grocery stores are important for health. And enforcement actions against bad landlords who have no interest in their tenants or the neighborhood's health must be vigorous.

All of these steps and more can help achieve success for the community organizers and community development organizations already on the ground in Sandtown-Winchester.

The recent riots in Baltimore were a wake-up call for all of us that neighborhood transformation must happen in a concentrated, strategic way. Systemic changes are necessary to achieve neighborhood transformation and make a difference in distressed communities and in the lives of their residents.

Odette Ramos, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Community Development Network of Maryland.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad