Diluting Concentrated Poverty Worked in Atlanta

Sitting in the cafe on a gorgeous fall day…wishing more people had come in today. Oh well. I read in a column in the Republican by Leonard Pitts…the story began with a horror show and ended with a lesson in how things can change for the better.

He describes a neighborhood in Atlanta called East Lake Meadows. “Built of bricks and ringed with barbed wire and called ‘Little Vietnam’ because it was a war zone. “Do you know where you are?” a horrified cop once demanded of a lost driver with out of state plates….and a Carter administration official was once terrified during a visit, even with the Secret Service by his side.

It had it all…$4000 average yearly income, 75 percent drop-out rate, almost 60 percent of the people on welfare. And an open air drug market all around. Only 14 percent of the people had jobs.

Fast forward to 2007: Now this neighborhood is totally changed, 75 percent of the kids pass the math tests, crime is down an astounding 87 percent, and about 5 percent of residents are on the dole. The secret: a new owner came in and mixed middle income residents in with the poor. The landlord now requires background checks and criminals can’t live there. By diluting the concentrated poor, and building quality charter schools and asking the poorest to pay 30 percent of the rent, it was all turned around.
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