Federal officials, Habitat for Humanity explore cooperative neighborhood effort Associate attorney general visits Sandtown projects

August 28, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

The Justice Department's third highest-ranking official toured part of West Baltimore yesterday, the first stop in a nationwide campaign aimed at forging ties between Habitat for Humanity and federal law enforcement.

Raymond C. Fisher, associate attorney general, spent about three hours at the Sandtown Habitat for Humanity office and projects, talking to organization officials and homeowners. It was his first Habitat visit. But he said Attorney General Janet Reno has made several visits and thought it was worth pursuing a relationship with the group.

"We're exploring what we might be able to do in partnership with Habitat," he said.

Fisher said he chose to visit the Sandtown office, at 1300 N. Fulton Ave., because it not only builds houses, but also %o addresses health, education and employment issues. The Justice Department wants to start working more with such neighborhood groups, he said.

"You have to take back your neighborhood and get communities involved," he said. "We can't do it from Washington. We can't do it from the top down." He said Habitat and the Justice Department have not made a commitment to work together.

Thomas Jones, managing director of the Washington office for Habitat for Humanity International, also visited Sandtown yesterday. He said Habitat hopes to work with the Justice Department on safety issues, prison ministries, probation programs and community-oriented policing.

Jones said he hopes to start work on these projects next year. "I would hope in 1999 we'd be doing a pilot project or two," he said.

Habitat for Humanity, which has built and restored more than 70,000 houses for low-income families worldwide, has 1,451 affiliates in 60 countries. The group uses volunteer labor and private and government funding to provide homes to families at cost. The Sandtown Habitat has completed 100 homes and is working on 50 more in a neighborhood where the median family income is less than $10,000.

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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