published Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Neighborhoods Alive group takes fight to gangs

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What: Building Strong Neighborhoods and Communities conference

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today

Where: Second Baptist Church, 2300 E. 3rd St.

Getting rid of gangs may get rid of some crime, but a few community leaders believe the roots of violence and disruptive behavior among youth go beyond that.

"The issue is deeper than gangs," said Ann Jones Pierre. "We need to get to the issue before we waste everybody's government money."

The real problem is the breakdown in the family, she said.

Pierre, a minister and manager of the Church Koinonia Federal Credit Union, and Joseph Kotsis, a Nashville-based tax consultant, founded the Chattanooga Neighborhoods Alive organization to help address the situation. They're hosting a Building Strong Neighborhoods conference today to discuss the family, gangs and other community issues.

Joyce Morley, who holds a doctorate in counseling, family and work life from the University of Rochester in New York, will be the main speaker.

"The family is the foundation of any neighborhood. When that crumbles, we have the high crime rate. We have the high gang rate," said Morley, owner and CEO of the Decatur, Ga.-based Morley & Associates.

Many communities have high numbers of single parents who don't always have the help they need, she said. And in Chattanooga there aren't any coalitions that include the schools, neighborhoods and churches for the purpose of helping families, Morley said.

For one reason or another, neighbors are becoming more impersonal, almost strangers to each other, said the Rev. Paul McDaniel, pastor of Second Baptist Church, where today's conference is being held. Everybody is trying to do his or her own thing, trying to make a living, but they don't develop relationships, he said.

By talking to each other, residents may discover common concerns and work together to solve them, he said.

Chattanooga Neighborhoods Alive has a vision of people sitting on the front porch and drinking lemonade in the park, said Kotsis, and those attending the conference will be asked to develop a plan of action they can take to improve their neighborhood.

"Do you know who your neighbors are?" Kotsis asked. "We're not asking you to build a house. We're just asking you to ask a neighbor to have coffee with you."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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