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Urban League targets aid to South L.A. area

December 07, 2007|John L. Mitchell | Times Staff Writer

South Los Angeles, like many hard-pressed areas of the city, has struggled for decades with unsafe streets, inadequate housing and healthcare, unemployment and educational gridlock.

It's a combination of problems that is too great for any one program to tackle.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Urban League announced the launch of Neighborhood@Work, a $25-million, five-year strategic plan designed to concentrate private and government assistance in a 70-block area surrounding Crenshaw High School.

"None of us can do it alone, and all of us can benefit by combining our efforts into one targeted, strategic initiative," said Blair Taylor, president of Urban League. Under the program, the Urban League will help the neighborhood, known as Park Mesa Heights, coordinate services in education, employment, health, housing and public safety. Some of the efforts will involve after-school programs. The league also wants to work with police to reduce crime and gang violence and work with community groups on health needs, such as fighting obesity.

At a news conference outside Crenshaw High School, Taylor joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, Police Chief William J. Bratton, state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D- Los Angeles) and others in introducing the plan.

Villaraigosa described the Urban League's concept of concentrating on a smaller area as a "model for change."

The 70-block area, a short distance from the Urban League's headquarters, has a population of 10,000 people and is bordered by Vernon Avenue on the north, Van Ness Avenue on the east, Slauson Avenue on the south and Hillcrest Drive and Crenshaw Boulevard on the west.

Irving A. Miller, Los Angeles Urban League board chairman and a corporate vice president at Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., said Toyota had pledged $2.5 million to the effort, which has raised $13 million.

The idea for the program began more than two years ago when the Urban League and United Way released the "State of Black Los Angeles" report, which painted a bleak picture of urban life, with high dropout rates and unemployment. Taylor called it "a call to action."

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