Here is a great reminder of the difference that one church can make when they are intentional and courageous to serve wholistically in the needs of their local community.
This article, including the title is taken directly from AZcentral.com
by Michael Ferraresi – Jul. 22, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Sweating in the summer heat, volunteers moved boxes of donated food at the Bridge Church as others helped south Phoenix residents find clothes, jobs and government benefits.
Meanwhile, police officers watched briefly over the small crowd at the worship hall, which doubles as a human-services community center to serve more than 30 families a day in an area long stigmatized by gang violence.
Through partnerships with police and city leaders, the Bridge became a prototype for the renewal of south Phoenix. It was the first of the area’s 90 churches to join the Neighborhood Roots System.
Police credited the increased faith-based involvement for a 39 percent drop in area homicides, as well as other crimes, since 2008.
Police have saturated south Phoenix with crime-suppression efforts in the past few years. Now, officers and neighborhood activists are working to sustain the relationships they established years ago.
“When law enforcement is involved, I think businesses look at that as a positive,” said Jon Katov, CEO of non-profit Open Table Inc. Katov said he was inspired to focus on south Phoenix after attending a service at a community church.
The Bridge is open 20 hours a week in an area where nearly 17,000 people live in poverty.
Katov said 20 other south Phoenix churches have already begun mimicking the Bridge. He pointed to a small room filled with donated computers.
“Here, you’re looking at a job center inside a working church,” Katov said. “To me, it’s a breakthrough.”
Churches have helped south Phoenix rebound from the wave of violent crime and gang-related homicides it suffered two years ago.
Police said sharing information with the community is key to keeping tabs on the trends and keeping crime down in an area that saw 62 homicides in an 11-month period in 2006-07.
South Mountain Precinct officers hope the city will apply for a federal Weed and Seed grant, which would provide additional funding for the 7/11 neighborhood fight-back area between 15th and Seventh avenues south of Buckeye Road, an area where police are seeing “flare-ups” of gang activity.
Residents in other areas say they feel safer as a result of recent efforts.
“We used to have kids standing on the corners selling drugs,” said Faye Gray, who leads the Hermoso Park fight-back group. “We don’t see it anymore. You used to see it in the daytime.”
Gray’s neighborhood, between 16th and 24th streets south of Broadway Road, is one of four neighborhood fight-back areas that have drawn mixed reviews from longtime south Phoenix residents. The fight-back areas are home to 13 documented street gangs, police say.
“It’s like any community,” said Gray, 72. “Some people like what we’re doing, some people won’t come out because they’re scared, and some people just want you to leave them alone.”