Commentary: The importance of advancing community projects

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Congressman Kweisi Mfume (Courtesy Photo)

Why I have asked Congress to fund vital initiatives in the 7th Congressional District

By Congressman Kweisi Mfume

For the first time in more than ten years, the United States Congress will appropriate money to fund a variety of community projects in all 435 congressional districts across the country. These appropriations are geared towards helping communities lift themselves up. Often these are opportunities to benefit an entire area by allocating a little bit of extra resources for a project that otherwise could not get off the ground. The return we can receive on our investment is exponential and therefore goes beyond what we initially invest. While every need cannot be met with this type of appropriation, I recently had the opportunity to submit the items listed below for consideration. I share these items with you both as a measure of accountability and to provide positive information about the good things happening in our communities.   

For example, improving access to quality healthcare should always be a top priority. This led the Baltimore City Health Department to launch a mobile clinic called “Healthcare on the Spot” in 2018. Through the mobile clinic, a multidisciplinary team of community health workers, case managers, nurse practitioners and doctors offer street-based medical services five days a week. The services include HIV/HCV/STI testing and treatment, opioid use disorder treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis to reduce the risk of HIV infection among high-risk groups, wound care, and case management. All services are free and available to anyone regardless of documentation or insurance status. The congressionally requested funds will allow for the operations of a second mobile clinic van that would be deployed to the areas in the City with the most need.

Another community project is the Liberty Community Development Youth Center, which will establish a new 13,000 square foot community youth center in Woodlawn, Maryland. The facility will include a gymnasium, computer lab, meeting and training rooms and will be a safe place for youth and their families to collaborate and learn. Programmatic offerings will include workforce development, after-school male and female mentoring, leadership, health and wellness, crime prevention, educational enrichment, social interaction, cultural enrichment, life skills, sports and fitness, and individualized re-entry support programs. The youth center will also provide adults with the opportunity to participate in various training and development programs, such as parenting and family enrichment, home ownership, marriage enrichment and financial literacy. 

In west Baltimore, the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation is partnering with City Dibs, a non-profit organization driven by young people of color, to implement a vision for the Pennsylvania Avenue Market as a vibrant food and economic hub. The revitalization of the iconic Avenue Market in Upton seeks to provide critical healthy food access as well sustainable jobs and employment opportunities for residents. In the community where Coppin State University resides, I am seeking funds for a similar project to support the build out of seven vendor stalls at a community food hall on North Avenue. 

In Columbia, Maryland, the Howard County Autism Society is adapting an award-winning housing model in which neighbors of different ages, abilities and incomes commit to providing one another with reciprocal social support in a residential environment that will allow adults with disabilities to live independently. The project seeks to provide critically needed, affordable housing for community members with disabilities.  

It is too easy to underestimate the significance of financing endeavors like the ones listed above or others we are pursuing through this process:  an eco-friendly housing development in the Montebello community; historic preservation efforts; the Southern Streams Health and Wellness Center in east Baltimore; the Ambassador Theater redevelopment in northwest Baltimore; and inclusive educational programs for children with special needs. The ultimate goal is to give people the tools they need to propel themselves in a positive direction. When these initiatives are done right, all of us get so much more back than what was originally put in. 

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