Chance to Break a Deadly Cycle ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

February 09, 1993

Pioneer City and Meade Village have been in desperate need of help ever since they were built more than 20 years ago. But no one's ever offered help. Instead, we've dealt with them the way the metropolitan suburbs deal with Baltimore City -- by ignoring, avoiding or escaping.

Councilman David G. Boschert remembers growing up in West County and being told, "That's where they are" -- the poor, the troublemakers. "You don't go there." Drive through Pioneer City and Meade Village today, and it's clear how much good this strategy has done. These are bad neighborhoods, plagued by crime, drugs, poverty and myriad social problems.

For too long, the rest of Anne Arundel County has decided these problems aren't theirs to solve. And when the troubles start seeping into the mainstream, we want to know why. But we shouldn't have to ask.

There aren't recreation facilities, so kids end up on the streets. Drugs and alcohol are rampant, but there are no substance abuse programs. Families can't afford health care, so their babies die; the Severn zip code has the third highest infant mortality rate in the state of Maryland.

Those who do try to better themselves often run up against a brick wall. Quite a few parents who attended a computer-education program at Van Bokkelen Elementary School wanted to continue adult education studies in Annapolis. But they don't have cars; to take the bus they would have to go to Baltimore, then catch a line to Annapolis.

Our "ignore or escape" philosophy has helped make these communities what they are. Plenty of people in bad neighborhoods want a better way; they just don't know how to find it. If the rest of the community isn't willing to put its weight behind efforts to bring resources to them, nothing will change.

Here's a golden opportunity. The county wants to build a $3.2 million multi-service center behind Van Bokkelen Elementary. With support services all under one roof, it would give people who need help a convenient place to find it.

The county can't come up with all the money itself, which means the private sector must pitch in if the center is ever to be built. This isn't a matter of charity. It's a matter of breaking the cycle that threatens all of us, no matter where we live.

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