Presentation Text, All-America
City Award, City Manager's Office
Good morning. I’m Julia Pirnack, Mayor of Longmont, Colorado. We are pleased to be here this morning to tell you about our home. Lying in the shadow of Longs Peak, Longmont is a beautiful and amazing place to live steeped in history and culture.
Our residents have taken an active role in shaping the future of our city and it has created a wonderful feeling of community—warm and inviting. We’re striving to build a community where people from all walks of life can come together in unity, reminiscent of a “Giant Front Porch.” Historically, the front porch was a place where neighbors came together to get to know each other and discuss their hopes for the future. We have a vision of a future where everyone has a voice and everyone can achieve their dreams.
But before we can reach our goals, we have to overcome our challenges. Today, we’d like to take you beyond the beautiful imagery of this front porch and show you the realities we’re confronting. Longmont has grown rapidly in recent years, and we’re facing bigger city problems. Today we’d like to tell you about three of these challenges that lie “beyond the front porch.”
I’m Edwina Salazar Waldrip, Director of the OUR Center. I’m here to tell you about our challenge with homelessness and its solution—the Longmont Housing Opportunities Team or LHOT.
Homelessness in our community has increased by 235% since 2000. It’s no longer uncommon to see people sleeping in their cars. The number of homeless families also increased at an alarming rate. Over half of our homeless are children and the wait for a Section 8 voucher in Longmont is over 6 years.
When people are out of work or underemployed, they might have to choose between buying food and paying rent. The amount of food requested in our food banks has increased 30% since 2004.
This dismal picture was unacceptable. While there is an increasing economic divide among our residents, we are working to leave no one behind. As a community, we had the resources and will to attack these inequities.
I’m Kathy Fedler, LHOT team member and Community Development Block Grant coordinator. LHOT is a collaborative partnership with over 50 members representing business, non-profits, the faith community and government.
To date, we have helped 10 families find homes through the Housing First Program; we have secured over $300,000 in funding, launched community outreach and education programs, and established a day shelter.
My name is Jessica Christensen. I’m a single mother and a graduate student. I have a job, but with my childcare expenses and school, I was really struggling to keep a roof over our heads. My son, Anthony and I have a home now because of the Housing First program. When I was asked if I would come here and tell my story, I was eager to share with you how fortunate I feel to live in a community like Longmont that opened their arms to Anthony and me.
I’m Sandy Stewart, coordinator of the Longmont Day Shelter. To date, the shelter has served 305 individuals, totaling almost 2,300 visits. We provide emergency food, medical screening, prescriptions, showers, and personal necessities. We also offer mail and voice mail service. Since our inception, 49 people have found jobs, and 26 have found permanent housing.
My name is Nancy Black. Three years ago, I had a six-figure income and I owned my own home. I had never needed any type of public assistance until I lost my job and my health insurance. A friend from one of the churches participating in LHOT told me about the day shelter. They’re helping me through a rough time, and I’ve been able to give something back by volunteering my master-gardening skills to the shelter’s garden.
My name is Marta Loachamin, and I chair the Multicultural Steering Committee that is addressing another challenge in our community, inclusion. In the 1990s, Longmont’s Latino population grew by over 8,000. By the end of this decade, Latinos will likely represent a quarter of our city. Many are first generation, monolingual Spanish speakers. It’s difficult to feel like you’re part of a community with language, educational or cultural barriers.
In the last few years, the city, the county, and schools have heard frustrations from the Latino community. They listened and took action. Together we are working to meet the needs of a more diverse Longmont by improving services, eliminating the barriers that minorities face, and expanding opportunities for all our residents.
In 2002, community members formed a Steering Committee which developed a strategic Multicultural Plan. The plan was designed to guide the community over a 5-year period in becoming a more multicultural, inclusive community. We established six task forces aimed at education, housing, health, community involvement, culture and the economy. We want to share some of their accomplishments.
I’m Marietta Gonzales, with the education task force. We developed a resource guide promoting English as a Second Language classes and were able to attract a new ESL provider to Longmont that has served over 200 residents. We also developed a mentoring program at Skyline High School. I personally mentor 2 young women that have established education goals beyond high school. We provide whatever support is needed to help young Latinos achieve their educational goals.
I’m Nino Gallo, one of 50 members of the newly created Latino Chamber of Boulder County. The Multi-Cultural Plan served as a catalyst leading to the creation of our organization. The chamber is promoting opportunities for minority-owned businesses and meeting the needs of the rapidly growing Latino business sector in Longmont.
Hi, I’m Lupita Delgado. I helped organize a series of study circles, called “Tamales and Talk.” In an effort to build networks across the community, we invited a culturally, ethnically and age diverse group of people to participate in small group discussions. By sharing potluck meals in our homes, we created a comfortable atmosphere that allowed us to build new relationships. Our goal was to understand each other better and inspire residents to participate in the community. 150 people attended the original circles, and we asked participants to host their own study circles to continue building networks.
I’m Marta Moreno, Executive Director of El Comité, a non-profit organization participating in the multicultural plan. We’ve had successes in many areas, including the establishment of a program to eliminate sub-standard housing and creating cultural celebrations, but we are most proud of the way the community has collaborated to build a more inclusive and caring Longmont. Longmont is walking its talk! And we’re working together to address another challenge–gangs in our community.
My name is Al Baldivia, a Sergeant in the Longmont Police Department. In 2003, our department started seeing an increase in youth gang involvement. Eight out of nine Boulder County gang related incarcerations involved Longmont youth. We were seeing more weapons, more “tagging”, and more violence. We had identified 13 gangs with approximately 400 members. We knew our gang problem would continue to grow if we didn’t act quickly.
I’m Marcy Becker with the Boulder County Probation Department. Late in 2003, 15 public and private organizations came together as a task force to develop GRIP, the Gang Response and Intervention Program. GRIP is a proactive program, providing early education for youth, parents and educators. It also provides early intervention and alternatives to gang membership.
I’m Rogelio Rodriguez, Alternatives to Suspension Coordinator with the St. Vrain Valley School District. The truly amazing thing about GRIP is how so many organizations have stepped-up and contributed a coordinated effort on behalf of these kids. The strong collaboration between the agencies, and the willingness to refer the kids and their families appropriately within a large network makes this program and our community unique. We’ve been able to build lifelong connections with these kids that are critical to their success.
I’m Louie Lopez, Co-Chair of GRIP. Forty-three kids have attended intervention programming that combines education, therapy, and channeling kids into healthy activities. 10 more kids will start this summer. We have also sent 52 gang involved youth through restorative justice processes, which involves the victim, community and offender in repairing harm.
We have some of our kids with us today. This is Sachea, Juan, Janeth, Kenya, and Jose. I’m really proud of these kids. They’re eager to tell you how GRIP has helped them.
Sachea—I ’ve changed a lot. I get nerd grades, now, and I have to be good, cause I can’t get Louie out of my head!
Juan—I see the truth now-what can happen to you in gangs. It won’t be me. I’m going to be an accountant.
Janeth—I feel bad for the hurt I caused my parents. They do so much for me. I see the opportunities around me now. I’m in soccer. It helps me stay focused. I want to graduate with honors and go to college.
Kenya—I make better choices and I’m happier now. I cook a lot. I want to be a chef!
Jose—Our community’s safe because there’s people that are willing to help others. Now, I’m helping out with the classes and trying to be a role model for younger kids.
(Gordon) Thank you, I can see why Louie is proud of all of you.
I’m Gordon Pedrow, City Manager. Other cities have problems, other cities have programs, but our community has every sector working together to tackle difficult, controversial and potentially divisive issues. While our path is complex and challenging, we will not rest until we are all together on the front porch. That’s why—(all together) Longmont IS an All-America City!