Promise Land Festival Endures
by Andy Ross | Sep 7, 2012 12:37 pm
Posted to: Newhallville
A spontaneous memorial of candles and teddy bears is still visited where a man was shot and killed in May in Newhallville, a block away from a neighborhood festival.
But the Promise Land neighborhood festival moved forward as scheduled Aug. 25, bringing together residents to make them more aware of their neighbors as well as the various social, economic, and health care services available to them. The gathering also put residents in touch with area churches that stand by, ready to counsel anyone who has needs—spiritual or otherwise.
“We are going to pray for those that have lost their loved ones due to the senseless violence in the neighborhood,” Pastor Donald Morris (pictured) said. “There has been enough of that so that everyone has been affected, which is one reason why we need to be out here together in this way. We are going to move forward and extend our efforts and continue to make a positive impact.”
The Promise Land was first conceived in early 2011 by Pastor Morris, a lifelong resident of New Haven and a community activist for the past 40 years. He serves as Executive Director of the Christian Community Commission, a 16-year old Newhallville outreach group.
The idea was to select a concentrated 10-block area of Newhallville and laser focus on it with various kinds of help to anyone in need. The group also closely monitored the number of police and fire calls to the area and maintained records of criminal acts and domestic altercations. Once the number of incidents declined from year to year the group planned to expand into other neighborhoods. In this way it hoped to provide a model that could be applied anywhere in New Haven or even across the USA. While exact numbers are not yet available, since the creation of The Promise Land there has been a decline in Newhallville crimes both violent and domestic.
This year’s festival took the place of the annual Gospel Fest that has been held in Geoff Park for the past 13 years. According to Morris the Gospel Fest was always a big hit with both area residents and out-of-town visitors, but at this time the cost of the festival is more than the organization can afford. “I work with Pastor Morris on a lot of the events, particularly Gospel Fest,” said Jerry Green (pictured), host of the Sweet Sounds of Praise radio show every Sunday on 94.3 WYBC. Green, who is also part of the Christian Community Commission, said “Gospel Fest has been a blessing in New Haven for years and I’m excited to be here for this year’s festivities.”
Vendors also came to the festival to share everything from arts and crafts to pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches. Among them was Bridgette Russell, Director of Home Ownership for Neighborhood Housing Services, an organization that helps people become homeowners or assists those who are trying to avoid foreclosure.
“We’re very excited that Neighborhood Housing Services can be part of this,” Russell (pictured) said. “It gives us a chance to talk about the services that we have to offer the community, and I hope people will take advantage of those.”
Since the real-estate crash of 2007, New Haven’s lower income areas have been hit especially hard. That’s mainly due to absentee landlords who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth and no longer invest in their maintenance and upkeep. Blight and foreclosure has a negative economic impact on any neighborhood, and the ratio of people seeking housing services because of a distressed situation compared to those looking to become a homeowner is currently 5 to 1.
“Not only do we have home buyers services for purchasing new homes while interest rates are at an all-time low,” explains Russell, “but we also have funds to help families that are distressed.”
The Promise Land project includes streets from Ivy to Dixwell to Winchester to Ivy to Reed & Winchester to Reed to Shelton from Shelton to Bassett and Bassett back to Dixwell. For more information about the Promise Land project, call Pastor Donald Morris at 203-627-9333
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