Hopkins Joins Effort To Assess Neighborhoods By Lisa Mastny In celebration of 25 years of organized cooperation with the neighborhoods surrounding the Homewood campus, the university is participating in a yearlong collaborative study with The Union Memorial Hospital and the Greater Homewood Community Corporation to assess and prioritize the changing needs of these communities. The study, funded equally by Union Memorial and Hopkins, was initiated last September as part of an effort to document the significant demographic trends in the area since the creation of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation in 1969, as well as to determine the future roles of both institutions in the area. "Hopkins' future is in this community--in the neighborhoods that surround it," said Patricia Fern ndez-Kelly of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and the principal investigator of the study. "Hopkins must play an aggressive role in helping improve the quality of life in the area." The rationale for the collaborative project reflects the growing need for institutions and grassroots organizations to join forces when tackling common concerns. "As government funding for urban initiatives becomes less and less available, and as the opinion grows that government should not intervene in the lives of individuals and the community, it is increasingly up to the communities and institutions to address mutual problems and issues of civic responsibility and citizenship," Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly said. With approximately 5,000 students and more than 100 members of the faculty and staff living in the adjacent community, Hopkins has a significant stake in the stability of the Greater Homewood neighborhoods, she said. "If the quality of life falls and people leave the city and these areas, this does not improve either the value of Hopkins properties or the competitive edge of the university in terms of employees, brainpower and students. Through this study, we hope to determine what the university, as an institution, can do to create incentives to stay." A Charles Village resident herself, Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly is keenly aware of the growing threats to these nearby communities. She recently completed the first phase of the study, a demographic and statistical profile of the Greater Homewood neighborhoods, and is now conducting in-depth interviews with both residents and community leaders to identify major concerns facing the area. She will present her findings to the community at an open roundtable discussion on May 31 before moving on to the final phase of the project: the convening of a Homewood Task Force of individuals to think through and address the most pressing issues emerging from the study. "One of the biggest problems is that there aren't enough families with children living in the area, and professionals and families move out in search of better educational facilities as soon as their children turn 5 or 6," she said. "It's a bit of a shame, because the area is enormously attractive to look at. But the disincentives are also great--concerns about safety, public schools, recreational activities and higher city taxes often prevent the area from attracting more stable residents." Demographically, the Greater Homewood area has changed quite significantly over the years yet remains an incredibly vibrant and diverse community, Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly said. "Within Greater Homewood, we have some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city, such as Roland Park, Homeland and Oakenshaw adjacent to what are now very uniform white or African American working class areas like Hampden and Waverly," she said. "Then you have Charles Village, which historically grew with the reputation of being much more open, accepting a variety of professionals and individuals associated with Hopkins as well as many working class people and local characters. Although these areas are predominantly stable now and have infinite untapped possibilities, each neighborhood faces its own set of urban challenges. Problems are emerging in the character and vitality of businesses, the number of homeowners, growing unemployment and the appearance of drug trafficking." Because the area is composed of individuals with diverse interests who may be suspicious of Hopkins' and other institutional intentions in the area, it is important that the study be as inclusive as possible and the community remain informed throughout the process, Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly said. "There is a cynical attitude that Hopkins does not have a good reputation because it is uncaring and insensitive to community needs," she said. "But part of the reason we undertook such an ambitious project in such a short time frame was in deference to these needs, to prove that it is not just a study that provides research for academics but doesn't go anywhere." This is not the first time either Hopkins or Union Memorial has provided its resources to improve the quality of life in the Homewood area. Taking the lead in 1967, the university began a series of breakfast meetings with area residents to explore the possibility of bringing disparate community associations together to work for community improvement. With the early support of Union Memorial, and spurred by Hopkins vice president and secretary Ross Jones, this initiative eventually led to the creation of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, an umbrella organization that now monitors numerous community planning, crime prevention, housing, recreational and recycling programs in the area. The Union Memorial Hospital has also been at the forefront of community health care efforts, most recently collaborating with the Shepherd Clinic to provide inexpensive health care services to the working poor. "We want to continue to work as a team with our neighbors to assess, prioritize and address the health needs of our community," said Edward J. Kelly III, president of Union Memorial, in an interview for the Greater Homewood newsletter, Keynotes. "Jerry Kelly and Ross Jones have been determined to create a situation in which there is a real partnership," Dr. Fern ndez-Kelly said. "And so far it has been a wonderful collaboration. We are coming up with fascinating results in the study, and I think we will have a good idea of what area priorities to address in the future."
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