Churches focus on social issues

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

About 170 members of Wyandotte County churches showed up Tuesday night, May 3, at Oak Ridge Missionary Baptist Church to hear details of a new organization, Churches United for Justice (CUJ). The organization is focused on two main areas — affordable housing and violent crime.

One of the solutions that the organization has suggested to deal with the affordable housing issue is landlord risk mitigation. First, let’s look at the problem. There are about 3,800 housing units in Wyandotte County of public housing or those funded with federal money. from what is called Section 8 certificates. Many landlords shy away from Section 8 because they have trouble collecting rent from these tenants and often have to evict renters; many times, renters trash homes just before leaving.

The mitigation progress would establish a fund that could help subsidize lack of payments and material damage for aggrieved landlords. Such a program has been successful in Denver, Orlando, Portland and Orlando.

This housing issue brings up an important public policy matter — does Wyandotte County really need any more public housing that would make a bad situation worse? Are surrounding communities, including Johnson County, doing their part to provide affordable housing?

CUJ also has suggested that a land trust be established to shift vacant parcels from a land bank. Any such action should be sensitive to neighborhoods. There have been success stories of such efforts in Detroit as seen on HGTV. Wyandotte County has about 4,500 vacant properties.

The violence issue is a very difficult one to solve. In 1954, there were seven homicides in Wyandotte County; during 2020, there were 58. During the 1950s, homicides were often caused by domestic quarrels among middle-aged persons. Today, many of the murders are a result of illegal drugs; the victims are often those in their early 20s or teenagers. Many youths today often are attracted by gang leaders who drive big cars, flash cash and wear expensive clothes; often these gang leaders are drug dealers.

CUJ is focused on violence prevention and intervention. One of the successful preventions CUJ cited was the PIVOT program, used successfully in Cincinnati. PIVOT stands for Place-based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, and it takes a comprehensive approach to dealing with high-crime areas; crime was reduced substantially at these locations.

CUJ should work closely with other crime prevention organizations including neighborhood watch groups and police advisory organizations along with Community Police officers.

CUJ is planning a rally at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, 2025 N. 12th St., with a goal of attracting more than 1,000 persons. For more information, telephone Amber Adams at 913-526-6831.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is an independent columnist. Opinions expressed here are those of the writer and not necessarily those of this publication.

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