Community Engagement and Revitalization, the core project of MI-YVPC, studies the effects of vacant property improvements on violence, property crimes and intentional injuries. We are assessing whether involving community youth and adults in greening reduces violence to a greater degree than either professional greening or no maintenance. This work builds upon programs developed by the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Michigan and the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation in Youngstown, Ohio. Previous research indicates that maintaining vacant properties can have beneficial effects on the health and safety of residents.
In the last three years, the center has completed a comprehensive data collection in Flint, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio. Surveyors went door-to-door collecting surveys of residents’ perceptions of their neighborhoods and conducted physical assessments of vacant lots and property conditions—recording details such as lawn care, building condition, and amount of litter on properties. Other staff extracted injury data at local hospitals and analyzed crime reports from local law enforcement. This data collection effort resulted in nearly 3,400 surveys completed by local residents and more than 37,000 properties assessed! We also extracted injury data from nearly 20,000 medical records and analyzed three years of crime data.
We couldn’t have been so successful in our data collection efforts without our great staff. The center employed more than seventy local residents of Flint and Youngstown metropolitan areas to collect our data. Not only did the center benefit from having great community-based researchers, our surveyors also reported that they benefited personally by developing a greater understanding of their communities.
The most rewarding part of being an assessor for me was making connections within my community and hearing people’s stories. It opened my eyes to a lot of community issues I was not aware of before.
– Assessor, Youngstown, OH
… talking with so many different people, you realize everyone wants the same thing—to have a close community that is safe for them, and the children. There are so many amazing members of the community out there who are looking out for each other, and trying to make a difference. Those are the people we need to focus on and support.
– Assessor, Flint, MI
As we celebrate our successes in data collection in Flint and Youngstown, we look forward to moving onto the final two phases of our research. This winter we will take the lessons that we have learned the past three years to the city of Camden, New Jersey, which will be scaling up their own community greening efforts. MI-YVPC will be facilitating learning exchanges between Camden and our other partners to share best practices for community greening activities. In 2019, we will launch a national survey of greening programs to better understand the barriers and facilitators of such programs. Our learning exchanges and national survey will inform development of an implementation guide for communities that would like to start up, or scale up, community greening programs.