Lt. Joe Gonzalez has the Floor

PCHTF Board Members talk about Affordable Housing

Lt. Joe Gonzalez has the Floor

I’m often asked about the correlation between crime and just about every social, educational and economic indicator there is.  In my 35 years of serving the community through the Des Moines Police Department, here’s something that without fail I know to be true -  Neighborhoods are either owned by the people who live there or they become at risk of being taken over by people, sometimes criminals, looking for opportunities at the expense of others.  It is a tug of war with the advantage going to those who live in neighborhoods with safe, stable and affordable housing.

That’s one of the reasons I joined the PCHTF Board and why in 2009 I was pleased to be appointed to the Neighborhood-Based Service Delivery Unit for the Des Moines Police Department.  As special unit officers we visit with residents where they live — in their neighborhoods, homes and apartments. This most personal interaction provides valuable insight, beyond statistics, into the progress and impact of revitalized neighborhoods as well as areas of need.

Let me share one example of why numbers are important but within a context of understanding. The number of police calls to an area is a standard measurement for how things are going in a particular part of town. But did you know that after an area is revitalized, cleaned up and otherwise improved – the calls often spike? That spike is not about increased crime, it’s about increased engagement. It tells us the neighborhood is taking back control, owning their area.  When this happens the bad guys move on.  The neighborhood stabilizes and sometimes flourishes. The domino effect is evident - children do better in school, parents do better at work and an area becomes more attractive and valuable to others who will want to live there.

These transformations take a concerted and focused effort.  The work that needs to be done is beyond what homeowners and landlords are able to do or afford on their own. In recent years I’ve seen a remarkable and much needed infusion of volunteerism and corporate support in the area of housing.  Thank goodness because I worry about a future where we are dependent on federal, state or even city funding. Just like a good business model, we are well-served to diversify and expand our funding streams. That has been happening in recent years and more formally now through the PCHTF Combined Campaign for Housing that is kicking off this month.   

Employers recognize the impact of housing on their workforce and on our area’s ability to attract and retain the people we need to thrive economically.  And many have stepped up and written checks investing in this knowledge. Thank you. We will be asking for your continued support. And in closing, a tip of the hat to the hundreds of volunteers who converge on and transform houses and neighborhoods all over our community. Know you are making a difference.