Urban Groups Seek US Funds
March 18, 2009, The Boston Globe — The windows leak at the Mattapan Community Health Center, which serves thousands of people in one of Boston's most impoverished neighborhoods. The foundation of Freedom House in Dorchester is cracked so badly that water pours in and flows down a hallway when it rains. The elevator breaks once a month at Family Service of Greater Boston in Jamaica Plain, sometimes stranding the center's clients.
But while the state is laying plans to spend billions of federal dollars on highways and other infrastructure around the state, nothing so far has been set aside to fix up community centers in Boston that survive on a shoestring and are crucial to strengthening urban neighborhoods. There are few provisions of the federal legislation that specifically provide funds for such nonprofits, forcing groups to find creative ways to compete for the funding.
"We're trying to stay on the governor's case," said Hubie Jones, an activist who chairs a group advocating for federal stimulus money for nonprofits.
Jones recently submitted a list of projects, totaling $5.4 million, to fix up the facilities of five neighborhood nonprofit groups serving areas around Roxbury, North Dorchester, and Mattapan.
"I have no confidence that the governor even knows about this request and what we've been pursuing," Jones said. "This is just a fly on the hide of this whole thing."
Representatives of the nonprofit groups, who have met with administration officials - including Patrick's stimulus czar, Jeffrey Simon - say the organizations are vital to the community during a down economy, yet have serious physical infrastructure needs that jeopardize the delivery of services. The lobbying by community activists also spotlights the delicate relationship between the state's first black governor and city neighborhoods with large numbers of African-Americans.
While Patrick administration officials declined to discuss the issue, they said the governor's office has agreed to work with the nonprofits, with no guarantees.