Wednesday, June 20, 2012
When Hope for the Inner City Executive Director Paul Green looks at the city, he sees two separate Chattanoogas.
“There is the most transformed city in the country and then, across the tracks, there’s another Chattanooga,” he said.
The area to which he is referring is East Chattanooga, the location of the ministry and a neighborhood that has been wrought with gang violence over the last several months. This “other Chattanooga” is made up of all the low-income parts of town where gangs thrive, food is hard to come by and hope may be hard to find, according to Green.
These are the areas with an abundance of single-parent homes, where drugs are integral parts of everyday life and people don’t invest in their own lives because they don’t expect them last too long, he said. Yet Green believes there is hope for the inner city and that local churches can be an integral part of decreasing gang involvement and violence across the city.
“Historically, churches have been civic-driven and active in the community,” he said. “The calling of Christ is to be the hands and feet of the gospel, so the challenge is figuring out how to take that from the pew to the community. If each church took a few streets, we could change the situation.”
According to Green, churches are already equipped with the resources necessary to help combat the problem, it’s just a matter of getting plugged in with the inner-city community. He suggests churches pair their passions with areas of need in the community, whether that means directing ministry to single moms, orphans, men’s ministry or something else altogether.
“If we could figure out the needs of the radius and lend our resources collectively, the results could be huge,” he said. “We just need to activate that faith, because we’ve been so immersed in our own constituents.”
The best way to make a difference individually or as a church, according to Green, is to find a way to use existing skills.
“The first step is coming to that awareness that we all must do something,” he said. “Then it’s just a matter of doing what you can do, whether that’s volunteering your time or using your rental property.”
Green said there also needs to be a shift in mindset for many people.
“A lot of people view it as ‘them’ and ‘us’ and have a mental barrier toward helping the poor,” he said. “We don’t always view the poor as having value.”
That attitude and lack of familial or community support are prevalent among poorer communities and often result in gang involvement, Green said.
“If your feel like you don’t have a support system, you are going to seek out people who say they have your back,” he said.
In an effort to help provide a support system for local youth and give them a sense of self-worth, the ministry is providing three different summer camp opportunities to help educate local youth and instill a hope for the future. Approximately 110 young people between the ages of 6 and 18 are already participating in this year’s eight-week camp program.
For more information about Hope for the Inner City visit www.hope4theinnercity.org.
Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a three-piece miniseries about the different facets of gang prevention in the Metro Chattanooga area. The previous article included information about the ways the community is helping with the city’s overall prevention and intervention efforts. If you missed it, you can read it online at http://community.timesfreepress.com/news/community_e-paper_archive by clicking on the June 13 edition. Check back next week for the final piece about law enforcement efforts.