Redeemer Community Partnership is a nonprofit, Christian community development corporation that builds better neighborhoods in South Los Angeles by creating safe, healthy, opportunity-rich communities where children, youth and their families thrive.
Near the corner of Western and Adams sits a vacant fire station owned by the city of Los Angeles. It's a beautiful historic building that has been unused since 2004. Three years ago, Redeemer Community Partnership submitted a proposal to purchase and renovate it for community use. The building has space to house our tutoring program, weekly youth group meetings, rehearsals and performances by Streetlamp Studio, community group gatherings and accommodations for work project volunteers. It also has a small parking lot and a beautiful patio shaded by sycamore trees and a wisteria-covered arbor. After a lengthy and (frankly) exhausting process, the city eventually turned down all three of the leading proposals, of which ours was considered the strongest. The building was boarded up and became an agenda item for neighborhood groups concerned about drug-dealing, prostitution and vandalism occurring around the property.
Yesterday the city released a new Request for Proposals to purchase this property. The original asking price of $760,000 has been reduced to $316,000. The process will be managed by the Community Redevelopment Agency. Proposals are due December 14th, following a Pre-Submittal Conference on November 18th.
We have many, many questions about whether to pursue this opportunity. Purchasing and renovating property poses challenges under any circumstances. The current economic climate, the historical nature of the building and city politics add extra complexity. But our programs are experiencing more and more growing pains at our current facility. Since RCP's September board meeting we have been praying earnestly for God to provide us with a more stable, physical "home." Could he be leading us back to this beautiful but complicated possibility?
Would you pray for God to guide our steps over the next couple weeks as we decide what to do?
Yesterday afternoon I noticed helicopters circling Loren Miller Park again. Isaiah had stayed home sick from preschool, but I felt a kind of virtual dread at how often we are still playing on the slides and swings at this hour. I wondered if any of his preschool buddies were present when whatever the incident was occurred. And how could we possibly be having another incident already?
The helicopters were still circling when I left the house around 2pm. At 6:30pm, when I returned, patrol cars were parked throughout the neighborhood and the sidewalks were crowded with bystanders. It turned out that a group of gang members had opened fire on some people they had just robbed. Again, God's shielded our community from harm. No one was hit, and an LAPD patrol car happened to turn the corner just as the first shots were fired. Officers arrested 5 men who will be charged with attempted murder.
I rejoice in God's mercy that no one has been harmed. But I also feel how precarious life is in a place where bullets fly. The families who live on the corner of Dalton and 27th feel it even more, and one friend has told me, "I don't know if I can live here any more." I would say the same if it were happening in front of my house.
There are some steps that can be taken, ways that neighbors can decrease and prevent this kind of activity. But such work requires time, effort, teamwork and a degree of risk. Last Sunday, the day before the first shooting, Richard and I hosted a block party for community members interested in forming block clubs. This group shared a potluck meal and talked at length with our LAPD senior lead officer. Attendance was 25 adults and 12 kids. About 10 more are interested in block clubs but couldn't make the party.
After our guests left, Richard and I did some fancy junior high math to figure out how many new relationships our block club gatherings have produced. Not counting people who knew each other previously, we estimate the number is about 332. That's a lot of relationships, and could be the foundation for some powerful work in our community!
Would you pray for these new relationships to continue growing, and for trust to develop across the barriers of language and culture and background? And pray that God will lead us in how to address the violence of the last ten days.