PNI on the Road: Houston– “You Can’t Build On Broken”

12 Mar 2012 | Cara Carrillo
PNI on the Road: Houston– “You Can’t Build On Broken”

Here’s the report from PNI’s Cara Carrillo on Houston:

“You can’t build on broken,” says Angela Blanchard, President and CEO of Neighborhood Centers, Inc. Their Gulfton Promise Neighborhood is testament to the success of that approach.

A thorough tour of the Baker Ripley Community Center and ride on the “Magic Bus” through one of the most diverse neighborhoods in our country was both inspiring and enlightening. This is the same community that was referred to as a high crime area with no hope for revitalization.

Over 25 years ago, Neighborhood Centers, Inc. started asking the community what was needed to transform it and make it a place where “the most deeply-held dreams we all have for our children” could be realized. Now, one can visit and see a vibrant community of promise, one of over 40 communities they are engaged with.

What has led to the successful transformation of this community where residents from all parts of the globe have access to a full service community center, quality health care, education, financial education resources, a tax center, immigration services, child care, ESL classes, after-school programming, and a complete continuum of cradle-through-college-through-career services in an environment that celebrates diversity and the contributions of each individual?

  • Being prepared for complexities and diversities. They don’t walk away from the complexities, have the difficult conversations, and stay present through the challenging and messy parts of community development.
  • Recognizing that they are using a framework as opposed to a model. It works differently in every place. They got to know the people and the place they were engaged with and continue to do so as they grow with the Gulfton community.
  • Long, slow, dedicated commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight. They started with small efforts around early childhood education over 25 years ago. The Baker Ripley Community center wasn’t built until two years ago – only after the community was built.
  • ALL the talent, resources you need is at your fingertips. No need to reinvent the wheel or let what you perceive as a lack of resources to stop you from “starting anywhere and taking it everywhere,” as Angela Blanchard says. Everyone has something to contribute. They tap into those gifts, allowing them to build something bigger than what had even been imagined.
  • High level of local support and community engagement. Because they worked with the community from the start and allowed for all voices to be heard, even those of dissent, they have built strong partnerships with organizations and people committed to the shared vision.

The Gulfton Promise Neighborhood was one of the 2010 planning grantees and while they did not receive a 2011 implementation grant, they are most certainly a shining example of a successful Promise Neighborhood and their work won’t stop without federal funding.

Hats off to the good work being done in Gulfton!

–Cara Carrillo, Houston, TX.