Carol Naughton, President of Purpose Built Communities, spoke to the Mary Black Foundation Board of Trustees at their Annual Dinner on January 19th of this year. Purpose Built Communities, an organization that supports communities across the country that are focused on neighborhood revitalization. Creating pathways out of poverty for the lowest-income residents, and building strong, economically diverse communities are the goals.
Our Northside Neighborhood is one of those neighborhoods. Spartanburg was the 8th Purpose Built Community. Others include New Orleans, Charlotte, and Indianapolis, etc.
It is a monumental endeavor to implement holistic change in disadvantaged communities, and it requires expertise from all walks of life. Purpose Built Communities has brought together some of the brightest minds to seek out meaningful change in our neighborhoods and cities.
Carol made the following comments that give all of us pause for thought and consideration:
*If you live in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty, you are more likely to live in substandard housing, go to poorly performing schools, and experience higher rates of violent crime. Research compares living in concentrated poverty to breathing polluted air – the longer you do it, the more it hurts you. It makes people sick. We are learning that toxic stress of concentrated poverty changes people’s brains and their bodies.
*Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician who runs the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard, looked at the biological impact of living in concentrated poverty. It produces an increased level of cortisol and other chemicals that have a profound impact on both brain and body. Living with toxic stress changes who you are forever. Interventions might work but they are expensive and we are less certain of outcomes.
Our grandmothers were right. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should focus on transforming neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into mixed income, sustainable neighborhoods that provide deep, broad, and durable pathways out of poverty.