May 2011  

   
Improving Quality of Life for the Residents of Haverstock Hills

In the summer of 2009, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos decided to take a stand against gangs in Harris County.  She asked her chief investigator which apartment complex was the most gang-infested in the county.  The answer was Haverstock Hills.  At that time, Haverstock had the most law-enforcement calls for service in the entire county.

Haverstock Hills is a 700-unit low-income Department of Housing and Urban Development multifamily residential property located in Aldine.  It serves 2,000 residents, of whom more than 700 are children.
The apartments, parking lots and businesses located adjacent to the Haverstock Hills entrance have been the sites of many robberies and shootings. Gang members habitually used the playground and parking lots of the housing complex and adjacent businesses for drug dealing. Children attending Francis Elementary in the Aldine Independent School District, which is located directly behind the facility, were often observed emulating gang members. Haverstock Hills
Lykos targeted Haverstock in January 2010. She brought together a group of community stakeholders – governmental and private sector officials – to take back the apartment complex from the gangs. She discussed her public safety strategy with the group, and regular meetings began taking place. Haverstock Hills’ owners, Equality Community Housing Corporation, and its management company, J. Allen Management, sought the same goals as law enforcement – improving the quality of life for area residents.
The stakeholders determined that the crime rate within and around Haverstock Hills was being driven by a large number of men who did not live at Haverstock, but instead visited and stayed with residents. Many of them were identified as members of local street gangs.
The District Attorney’s Office filed Harris County’s first gang nuisance lawsuit in an attempt to bar those who repeatedly commit crimes at Haverstock and to evict the residents who harbor them. On December 10, 2010, Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan declared many of the Bloods and Crips gang members nuisances under Texas law and temporarily barred them from the entry at Haverstock Hills and the 57-acre safety zone surrounding it. Two months later she permanently barred 47 members of the two gangs.
Over the past two years, a monthly average of 396 phone calls were made to law-enforcement officers to report incidents at the complex. That average has dropped to 153 calls during the first quarter of 2011.
Community Center
The community partners have been working diligently to improve the quality of life for the residents of Haverstock.  A $5 million grant provided for weatherizing improvements, and in September 2010, an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new Haverstock Hills Paggi Community Center.  Construction of the center was funded by an anonymous donor and J. Allen Management.

Computer Equipped The center is equipped with more than 35 computers being used in a computer laboratory and a children’s reading room.  A large meeting room will accommodate free summer programs, early children intervention programs and on-site fire and safety classes. 

The Northeast YMCA, a yearly partner to the center, assists with the after-school programs, field trips, and summer programs.  The after-school program requires students to have passing grades and good behavior throughout the school year.  Their report cards are checked periodically.  The Aldine Y.O.U.T.H Center, which is located less than five miles away, will be used for programs not available at the Paggi Community Center.  These programs are designed to address gaps in the community-based social services. 

J. Allen Management also donated the old community center to be used for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office storefront. 

The community stakeholders realized that a key component to improving the quality of life at Haverstock would involve introducing the children to positive life experiences and teaching them about making good choices.  They are working together to help the children realize that with hard work and dedication, they can accomplish anything.  By exposing them to various activities they would not normally experience, the partners are helping them identify new goals they can set for themselves. 

During spring break, a reward was offered for children enrolled in the Haverstock after-school program.  More than 40 children received a 20-minute airplane ride.  In order to qualify for the trip, each child had to show his report card with passing grades.  More activities are planned to help the children recognize alternatives to gang life.

The changes at Haverstock Hills have been dramatic.  The crime rate is down, the residents are safer, the facility has been updated, and the children are being exposed to activities that were previously not available to them.  For more information on Haverstock Hills or to become a community stakeholder, call 281-449-2323.

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Meals on Wheels Helps Keep Seniors Independent
Home-Delivered meals to Homebound Seniors

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s (IM) Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston program provides a home-delivered meal to homebound seniors 60 years of age and older.  The seniors have difficulty preparing meals and often live alone with little or no support.  The program allows thousand of seniors to remain independent and live with dignity in their own homes rather than having to move to a care facility.  Additionally, Meals on Wheels delivers breakfast and weekend meals to the most frail and isolated seniors who would go hungry without the extra nutrition. 

There are numerous organizations serving Meals on Wheels to thousands of seniors in the Greater Houston area.  IM’s program delivers meals to approximately 4,600 seniors in Harris County every weekday, a number that has grown significantly over the past three years.  Each of the many meal deliveries is made by a driver who also checks on the well-being of the senior, bringing peace of mind to seniors and their families. 

For many of the senior clients, IM volunteers deliver donated pet food once a month to those in the program who own dogs and cats, so they do not feel compelled to share their limited food and resources with their four-legged friends.  The program delivers about 6,500 pounds of dog and cat food to more than 900 pets each month.  IM Volunteers Deliver Donated Pet Food

Harris County recognizes the importance of the program and has been making county funds available that are vital for IM to serve the growing number of seniors in need.  Through a grant given to Interfaith Ministries and eight other organizations in Harris County each year, IM and the other organizations are eligible for almost $2 million in state funds, of which approximately $1.4 million goes to IM’s Meals on Wheels program.

County Judge Ed Emmett delivered meals to Homebound Seniors During "March for Meals," a national annual campaign to raise awareness of senior hunger, County Judge Ed Emmett delivered meals to several homebound seniors in Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels program.  Judge Emmett, along with members of IM’s board and representatives from Shell Oil Co. and Motiva Enterprises, spent time visiting with each senior and delivering a nutritious hot meal.

In addition to Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston also resettles hundreds of refugees each year in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, facilitates communication on behalf of Houston’s faith communities during relief and recovery efforts together with Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, and provides a safe harbor for Greater Houston through its many interfaith programs and dialogue efforts. 

The organization is always looking for volunteers to help with monthly pet food deliveries, visit with seniors, teach English classes to newly arrived refugees and more.  To learn more about the organization or to volunteer, visit www.imgh.org or call 713-533-4900.
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