This commitment will expand CRIs current work to make Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana, demonstration cities in which residents are concretely connected together, and it will use this citywide demonstration model to actively foster and support community renewal in cities around the world.
CRI will do this by taking the Friendship House strategy citywide, so that all at-risk, low-income neighborhoods will have a safe forum for gathering, and will provide adult education and skills training, conflict resolution and family support strategies, after school programs for children and teens, and a sustainable platform for health care delivery services and jobs training. Achieving a full-scale citywide demonstration of the Friendship House strategy of the CRI model will be accomplished in two phases.
Phase One: Expansion-Implementation. Friendship Houses multiply from 9 to 60 reaching the 54,000 people at or below the poverty line in Shreveport and Bossier City. These will be 60 LEED-certified Friendship Houses, modeling environmental building design and solar energy, which will help vulnerable neighborhoods become more sustainable. Thirteen Friendship Houses will be built in 5 new neighborhoods in year one, and 10 additional Friendship Houses for each of years 2-5. Two Community Coordinators will be recruited and trained as staff to live with their families in each new Friendship House, building trust and nourishing relationships, and coordinating among local partners to bring necessary resources to low-income, high-crime neighborhoods. CRI staff will be increased accordingly to provide resource and partnership support to the Community Coordinators in each new Friendship House. Phase 1 will be complete by the year 2015.
Phase Two: Project Evaluation. A comprehensive evaluation design will measure immediate and quantifiable quality of life metrics from a 2009 baseline of function/dysfunction. This evaluation will provide the information necessary in both the short term and long term to show development of a safe and caring community. Phase Two will be completed by the year 2019.
Historians, such as Arnold Toynbee, have documented that societies go through a cycle wherein they grow, flourish, plateau, decay, decline then collapse. This commitment is based on the belief that the disintegration and collapse can be stopped and reversed if positive, committed, and intentional attention is given to human relationships.
Community Renewal International's unique breakthrough is the development of an actionable and measurable model that applies this belief to whole cities. CRI's working model systematically initiates, grows and sustains safe and caring communities with concrete, measurable results. In short, CRI provides the missing ingredient to global sustainability efforts--an effective social technology. There is evidence that this model works: in the stressed neighborhoods where CRI has had a presence, crime has dropped by nearly 20 percent, on average. CRI has staying power: the first Friendship Houses built 15 years ago have staff that still live there and remain strong and thriving. In addition, the CRI model is scalable.
The Friendship House Strategy is one in which volunteer contractors and key partners build two houses each with a large 'community room' in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods, usually encompassing a 30-block area. CRI trained staff and their families live in these Friendship Houses as they help rebuild the caring infrastructure of those areas by working with the resident children, youth and adults. The Friendship Houses provide direct services to children, youth and families in a safe, caring and nurturing atmosphere that offers educational assistance, mentoring, life-skills programs, conflict resolution, parenting skills training, and family support strategies. They directly serve the neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty, unemployment and crime. They address the endemic causes of poverty and build the foundation for economic growth by increasing the capacity of residents in the neighborhood and serving as a catalyst to bring resources for health, education and housing. Nine Friendship Houses are now serving over 6,000 people in Shreveport-Bossier City's most impoverished areas.