March 16, 2009

Whitehouse Renews Push to Support Investments in Distressed Communities

R.I. Senator Reintroduces Legislation Authorizing Funding for Community Safety Initiative

Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will reintroduce legislation to authorize federal funding for the Community Safety Initiative (CSI), which has led efforts to curb violence and build healthy neighborhoods in Rhode Island by transforming crime-prone properties into affordable housing, successful businesses and community space.

Whitehouse made the announcement today at a roundtable meeting with residents and community leaders at the Polish National Home construction site in Olneyville, where he joined local law enforcement officers, and CSI coalition partners to discuss the recession’s impact on the program’s work to revitalize the community. The Polish Home is a blighted property now under renovation by Olneyville Housing Corporation and YouthBuild Providence.

Whitehouse said the Community Safety Initiative Act would establish a consistent funding structure that would help the CSI as it seeks other sources of financial support. The bill’s cosponsors are Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

“Rhode Islanders have seen the extraordinary good CSI’s efforts have accomplished in places like Olneyville,” said Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney and Attorney General who created the state’s first nuisance task force to clean up derelict properties, or properties used for crime, in distressed communities. “With our economy in trouble, and more and more neighborhoods across the country threatened by joblessness and rising foreclosure rates, programs like CSI that support and rebuild at-risk areas are more important than ever.”

CSI is a national program of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which provides capital, technical expertise, training, and support to community-based development organizations and others working to restore and rebuild neighborhoods. The CSI strategy has been proven to reduce crime, create jobs, and spur lasting economic development in some of the most troubled communities around the United States.

Olneyville, Elmwood, Pawtucket and other Rhode Island neighborhoods have been at the forefront of efforts to document and replicate best-practices within CSI’s national network, making communities safer while saving precious public resources. Community Safety Initiative partners in Rhode Island have five times won national recognition by the MetLife Foundation for their work, including remarkable efforts to revitalize Riverside Park in Olneyville, which resulted in a nearly 60 percent drop in the area’s crime rate and created 70 units of affordable housing.

“This bill is an important milestone in LISC’s efforts to support and expand strategic community-police partnerships around the country,” said Michael Rubinger, President and CEO of LISC. “Safety is fundamental to neighborhood well-being. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Whitehouse in advancing the replication of this proven strategy.”

Rhode Island LISC Executive Director Barbara Fields said, “In these times, we must work together creatively to build safe and healthy communities. We are very grateful for Senator Whitehouse’s commitment to public safety and to the CSI program in particular. His leadership is helping to support critical, creative partnerships in Providence and other cities.”

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