Baltimore residents invited to speak out Street-corner events to find solutions for city children's issues

April 17, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimoreans were being invited today to take to the streets the next two Saturdays to make the city safer and healthier for children.

A local group of citizens and officials said it has arranged for unorthodox "speak-outs" on 42 city street corners so residents can offer practical solutions to crime, illiteracy, truancy and other problems facing adolescents.

The speak-outs are part of an elaborate schedule of hundreds of meetings being announced today, ending in a citywide summit July 12. The purpose is to gather ideas for Baltimore's entry in a competition for $5 million from a national health charity.

Baltimore is one of eight cities competing for five grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J. The eight were chosen last year as finalists from an invited list of 20. They file final applications by Sept. 15 and learn who won in December.

For its "Safe and Sound" program, the Baltimore Community Foundation and Associated Black Charities (ABC) have been organizing hundreds of groups and citizens to think of realistic solutions to problems affecting children of all economic and social backgrounds.

"We want to get the broadest public campaign on what's most threatening to kids and what practical solutions are urgently needed," said Hathaway C. Ferebee, the Baltimore Community Foundation project director who guesses she has met 200 times in planning sessions since 1995.

Said Timothy D. Armbruster, executive director of the foundation: "We think we will win the $5 million, but we have so much momentum to improve things that some good will come of this whether or not we win."

They said the final proposal will suggest ways to:

Give children and adolescents more to do between the end of school and the dinner hour.

Reduce domestic and gun violence.

Encourage more children to learn to read and to read more.

Keep children from skipping or dropping out of school.

Get youths to practice responsible sexual behavior.

In late April and early May, Baltimore teams of four people each will visit about 10 cities in "best practices" trips to study successful programs. Each team will include a government official, young person, neighborhood leader and private-sector delegate.

"Can we change the world? Probably not," said Michael E. Cryor, chairman of ABC and president of Mellem Corp. "But we can come to a consensus. With a handful of people, it's a program. With thousands of people, it's a movement for change, a community agenda not only for poor people but all classes."

The speak-out street corner meetings -- 18 on Saturday and 24 on April 26 -- begin the public phase of informing and hearing from citizens. Speak-outs at each corner will be at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Officials hope hundreds of people will attend.

Speak-outs are scattered. Three in the northern district, for instance, are at 33rd Street and Greenmount Avenue, 22nd and Greenmount and 5525 York Road. Communities have been informed, officials said.

Other meetings also are planned.

May 5 and 12, officials expect 500 to 1,000 people will talk about goals during "brainstorming" sessions in nine Baltimore service center districts, based on the nine police districts.

Between May 1 and June 6, scores may meet in private homes to discuss community values and standards helpful to children.

June 7, a pre-summit meeting of 200 to 300 community leaders will develop benchmarks for strategies and goals.

July 12, a citywide summit of more than 10,000 people will vote for a plan of action in a conventionlike setting. Sites are to be named soon.

About 100 volunteers have been the major planners on #i committees of an "action team" headed by Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson and Katrina M. Scott, 16, a City College sophomore.

A youth council of 300 middle and high school students, ages 14 to 19, from public and private schools has met a dozen times since summer. Katrina heads its executive committee. The teen-agers have written a code of ethics; one section is headed, "Respect ourselves and others' differences."

Safe and Sound has received about $800,000 in grants. Donors include the Johnson foundation, Charles Crane Family Foundation Inc., the Baltimore Community Foundation, ABC and Annie E. Casey Foundation. No public money has been spent.

Almost a dozen consultants' studies have been ordered. The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health wrote a "baseline study" of the condition of city children. The University of Maryland School of Medicine is studying what youth programs in Baltimore are being funded.

For information about where speak-outs will take place, call Baltimore Community Foundation coordinators at 410-625-7976.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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