During the fall and winter, we examine the root causes of problems in the areas chosen and narrow down to a specific problem and then a specific issue. We always seek reasonable solutions that can be accomplished here in our local community.
Throughout that time, we also build our source of power–people–in order to see action taken on the issues that we uncover. Each spring, we gather together in a large Assembly where we will seek commitments for the implementation of solutions. We model this meeting off of the great Assembly described in the book of Nehemiah chapter 5:1-13. It is through our following of Nehemiah’s example of taking direct action, that we have won the following:
- Problem: People who relied on public transit could not get to work on Sundays or evenings; that people had to cross dangerous intersections like the I-64 interchange to be able to go grocery shopping; people were forced to spend as much as $40 on taxis to get access social services because no bus line served the county government office.
- Solutions: Sunday bus service on the two most heavily traveled routes (Route 7 and the Free Trolley), night service on route 5, and creation of a new bus route to serve the county office building and low-income neighborhoods.
- Results: Not only can more people get to work and go shopping, but ridership has increased by as much as 75% on these routes.
- Problem: There was a wait list over 1,000 names long for the uninsured to receive dental care; and that many uninsured dental cases were being seen in emergency rooms because they could not access primary dental care.
- Solution: Creation of a Free Dental Clinic with full-time dentist and dental assistant.
- Results: Since 2008, the clinic has served over 6,000 patients and the wait list to receive dental care has been reduced by over two-thirds.
- Problem: Far too many low- and middle-income individuals in the community are rent-burdened, meaning they pay at least 30% of income for housing, with some paying as much as 50% or more in income; there is also a 4,000 unit shortage of rental housing in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area
- Solutions: A total of $5 million has been invested by the Charlottesville City Council into an affordable housing trust fund. The County has committed over $1 million to build or refurbish affordable units.
- Results: The City has built or preserved more than 500 units of affordable housing to date and built Charlottesville’s first mixed-income development. Since 2007, Albemarle County has built or refurbished over 350 affordable units.
- Problem: There is a lack of availability of consistent quality language access services for individuals with limited-English proficiency (LEP). Many LEP individuals–including immigrants and refugees–have difficulties when interacting with law enforcement officials.
- Solution: The Regional Jail and both City and County Police Departments agreed to develop and implement LEP plans for their departments.
- Results: The City of Charlottesville Police Department has completed their LEP plan by training 100% of their officers in the proper protocol when addressing non-English speaking peoples. The Albemarle County Police Department and Regional Jail are currently in the process of implementing their LEP plans.
- Problem: There is a clear academic achievement gap for low-income children. We learned that access to pre-K education significantly minimizes this achievement gap and helps ensure that all children receive a quality education that enables them to succeed beyond high school.
- Solutions: Increased enrollment and classroom expansion for low-income preschoolers.
- Results: Between 90 and 100% of enrolled children in three- and four-year-old classrooms are low-income. Significant achievement gap decreases, with as many as 100% of students passing 3rd grade PALS standardized tests. The City and County will continue to collaboratively expand to have 20+ pre-K classrooms and to increase enrollment to all children.
- Problem: Ex-offenders with mental illness did not receive more than 30 medication or therapy upon release from the jail or prison. No agency was equipped to provide immediate treatment to this population, resulting in a 60-90 day treatment gap. This would cause the destabilization of many ex-offenders’ conditions, resulting in homelessness, a stay in the emergency room, or admission back into prison.
- Solution: Sustained City and County funding for Healthy Transitions, a psychiatric re-entry program between the local mental health community services board and the Probation and Parole office.
- Results: Healthy Transitions has proven to reduce recidivism, homelessness, and costly emergency room visits, saving the community hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.