How to fix Sandtown? The solution is based on relationships, says one pastor

Sandtown-Winchester. A 72-block neighborhood in West Baltimore recently driven into the national spotlight after Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12 and died five days later after suffering spinal injuries while in police custody.

It’s a neighborhood home to about 8,500 people. According to a recent article by The Baltimore Sun,”half the children live below the poverty line, nearly a quarter of adults are out of work, and the homicide rate is more than double the citywide average.”

Today alone (Sunday), two men were fatally shot in Sandtown within two hours.

Community churches and nonprofit leaders are having open dialogue about how to help Sandtown and the people who live there.

I met today with the Rev. David Olson of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Baltimore. He explains BRIDGE (Baltimore Regional Initiative for developing Genuine Equality) and how the only thing that’s going to cure the ills of the city is urban planning becoming regional planning:

Olson says there needs to be an integrated educational system instead of residential-based schools:

Through BRIDGE, the church has been part of several policy changes made in the city, including raising the minimum wage and inclusionary housing:

From Olson’s perspective, the “so-called riot is an embarrassment (that) was so easily pinned on kids and so provoked by police.”

“Baltimore’s segregation exists on many, many levels,” says Olson.

Olson says social media has helped the young adults of the congregation connect easily in the movement.

The church in the African-American community is a key institution, says Olson, admitting that he’s making a generalization. In white communities, church is an option:

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