Wednesday, April 09, 2008

HeraldTrib Today: April 9, 2008

More on the Men of the Corner…

Last week’s HeraldTrib Today column about the Buckingham Center and what will happen to the men who wait to get jobs on the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive got people reading and writing. Good. I am hoping to advance the discussion of race, culture, and economics in our divided community. I will admit that I am not always sure how best to do it, but I am willing to try. (Links to related stories can be found at the end of this column.)

The letter from Patè McCollough got me thinking that I need to clarify a little of what I wrote. This is where my logic takes me:

Whoever manages the property at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Pershing once the corner is redeveloped will not allow men to loiter. This will be the case whether the men are perfect, stand-up citizens or drunkards.

So the men who stand there now will have to go elsewhere.

Thus far, standing on the corner must, at some level, be working for them. They are not idiots, so they must be getting some benefit from being there.

I will bet that most of the men who stand there are decent guys just trying to find work. To my way of thinking, this cannot be the best way to find work in a first-world country. I know, too, that the county offers job placement and training help at the Shirlington Employment and Education Center near Four Mile Run. As well, people can and do take classes in English, computing and other classes at the Buckingham Community Outreach Center on 4th Street here in the neighborhood.

Yet still men wait on the corner of N. Glebe at N. Pershing. So something is going wrong. In this county, the best method of looking for a job should not be to stand on a street corner.

As well, the only direct way that the county has been handling this problem is to arrest men who break the law on, and ban them from, that corner. That does nothing to get at why the men are there to begin with, and serves to intimidate men who are not breaking the law.

Which leads me to this conclusion: the programs that the county has set up are not meeting the needs of the men on the corner. At the least, the programs are not helping the men in a way that will draw the good men from the corner.

That is my main point.

I do not mean to say that the county programs are poor (honestly I do not know if they are or not). I just mean that the law-abiding men who remain on the corner see a bigger value in staying on the corner than on going to one of the agencies that might help.

This could be for any number of reasons. I am guessing that the distance to the SEEC is part of the problem, and the fact that employers looking for workers this minute do not stop at the Buckingham Community Outreach Center looking for men. It might also be that the men do not know of the programs or that they cannot both take part in the programs and work in the same day. I do not know.

In an interview with Walter Tejada last fall when he was running for County Board (he is now the board chairman), I asked him if North Arlington needed its own job center. He said no, that he thought much of the problem might be eliminated with more education, letting people know what SEEC offers.

Others in the past have recommended a shuttle that would take men from Buckingham down to Shirlington.

I do not at this point know what the right answer is, but I know that the honest men on the corner need the county to start working on ways to help them now because next year at this time will be too late.

The local environment...

Take time to read up on a couple environmental pieces I posted earlier today. Greg Zell and the Champion Trees was fun to report and write. I always like going to Sparrow Pond to see the ducks. They’re back. See all the headlines below.

Letters and the Chatham...
Don't miss the stories in the "Other stories" section, below. All the letters and comments about the Buckingham Center had me clarify my letters policy. You'll want to see it.

The Chatham story is one you won't want to miss; it deals with homelessness and free meals.

Of course, you can find the Police Notes there, too.

The Week’s Headlines…
As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

Buckingham Center Headlines:
You may have read these stories already, but many have additional comments that have been trickling in all week. --ST

  • Letter: Poverty Isn't a Crime
  • Letter: Thanks for Community Notice
  • HeraldTrib Today April 2 (last Wednesday)
  • Community Handles Hot Topics Civilly at Forum
  • Last Fall's Interview with Walter Tejada

  • Environmental Headlines:

  • A Champion of the Urban Forest
  • Wood Ducks and Stupid Woodpeckers

  • Other Headlines:

  • Letters and Comments Policy at the HeraldTrib
  • Update: Church and Chatham Meet with Police
  • Police Notes for Buckingham April 9, 2008

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