For my trend piece I want to develop the story idea I came up with on my walk about. I want to delve deeper into the other side of Provo. I want to look at the multicultural demographics of Provo and see if there is a cultural divide and where that divide begins. There are clearly places in Provo that are less affluent than other places, but is that related to culture? Also, what other factors contribute to the divide. Are the needs of the community being met, or are they swept aside? What are the implications of the two different sides of Provo and how do the two coexist?
I’ve seen at least one neighborhood that is living in real poverty and does not enjoy many of the nicer things of Provo. There is a community center in the area to help provide support to the community, but is it enough? What more could be done?
April Divine has lived in the Boulders community in South Franklin for seven years. She moved to the area from Florida with her daughter when her daughter was attending BYU. Divine moved into the Boulders because, as a single mother, it fit her price range.
The Boulders is home to more than 2,000 people, the federally-subsidized housing community has seen more than its fair share of crime, drugs, and disaster. But for those on limited incomes (many of the families there are at or below the federal poverty level), who are immigrants, or who are just trying to get a new start, it serves as a diverse and dynamic neighborhood.
When Divine first moved to the area she didn’t know that the area was a low income area and home to rampant crime. Divine remembers looking out her back window to the park and watching people recruit children in the park to do drugs.
“You didn’t come out at night,” Divine said. “It was too dangerous and not a place I would feel comfortable letting my grand kids play in.”
The South Franklin Community center was created to address these problems in the area. In 2005 there were 1,607 9-1-1 phone calls made from the area. The original purpose of the center was to decrease 9-1-1 calls, but has since become so much more to the community.
Before the South Franklin Community Center existed residents had no common meeting place to meet in. This prevented residents from communicating with each other. As residents talk to each other and get to know one another they can share information about valuable resources.
Lack of communication led to a lack of general knowledge about resources available in the community. Residents didn’t know where to turn for help or who could help them.
Divine knows several families who needed help, but didn’t know where to go or who to turn to.
“One girl was seven months pregnant and didn’t know that there were people who could help her pay her bills,” Divine said.
Few residents in the past have been willing to help their neighbors due to the area’s reputation. Many feared if they spoke out about drug problems or abuses then they would become a target. It was better for them to stay inside and not come out. Apathy came about because of residents who didn’t think the neighborhood was capable of ever changing.
The idea for the center began in 2003 when BYU law professor David Dominguez brought his community involvement class to the area to help find solutions. As they got involved and saw a need they became more dedicated to finding a solution to the problems in the area.
Domiguez believes that a community can act as its own law advocate if the residents are involved and become partners with the community.
“Lawyers are more likely to ensure lasting social change if they help residents of under-served communities articulate their own interests and thereby learn to act as their own long-term advocates,” Domiguez said.
The program started in an old apartment complex given to the community by the Boulders management. The center started with only a few programs to bring residents together. Now the center has grown their program base. The majority of programs still focus on education and self-improvement.
The establishment is owned by Provo City, but is operated by the United Way through AmeriCorp VISTAS. VISTAS stands for Volunteers in Service to America.
South Franklin Community Center currently has two AmeriCorp VISTAS. Erica Arguello is one of the two VISTAS in charge of the center. Arguello has been a VISTA for South Franklin Community Center for 8 months and will finish her year contract this summer.
Arguello is in charge of writing grants for the center as well as working with community partners. She hopes to continue to develop resources for residents to use at the center as well as increase community engagement.
“We are working on finding the best way for people to hear about the community center and get more people to the programs,” Arguello said. “We are trying to understand better what impedes people to go, and add more programs that will help community members.”
The center ran out of the apartment complex until August 2013 when the new building was constructed in the same place. The community center is located in the community and is within easy walking access of those in the community center.
Building the new center required many volunteer hours. Divine was one of the many who volunteered to help create the new building.
“I’m not one who can be content just sitting around and not doing anything,” Divine said. “I have to be doing something.”
Throughout Divine’s time living here she has seen significant changes in the community and atmosphere of South Franklin. Divine has also played a major role in this change.
“I spend most of my day out and around the community,” Divine said. “I try to get to know everybody.”
As the community started talking with fellow residents and making connections, many noticed a need for change. The center dedicated its programs and direct action plans to the needs expressed by the community. The founders created a needs based system to address the most pressing issues on the residents.
The center also focused on utilizing the resident’s strengths. The residents are familiar with the community and have a lot to offer. By giving residents the chance to teach a class or help others in the community a sense of unity began to build between residents. Activities at the center got residents more involved and invested in the success of their community.
Community partners started reaching out to the area in an attempt to create a sense of community and connection between residents.
The new South Franklin Community Center gave residents the resources necessary to house multiple educational and informational programs and clubs for adults and children.
The Boys and Girls club has helped create connections between children in the area.
The proximity of the center to Brigham Young University’s campus has increased student involvement in the center.
Cory Finlayson, a program director through Y-Serve for South Franklin Community Center, has had many memorable experiences at the center.
“I love seeing the parents and children getting involved and teaching each other,” Finlayson said. “It helps me remember why I choose to help.”
Residents have increased their relationship with each other and local authorities. All residents now have the police chief’s phone number and police now take 9-1-1 calls more seriously.
Before the center brought a sense of security to the area many residents kept to themselves and stayed out of the way. Now community members are watching out for each other now and act as their own protection system in some cases.
“All the children in the area know my name and know where I live,” Divine said. “They come to me with any problems they have and I try and help them take care of it.”
Divine is also directly involved in the center. As the building coordinator she checks on the building, looks in on classes, and makes sure that needs of everybody in the center are met.
Her grandchildren have often accompanied her to the center. Something that Divine says she wouldn’t have done several years ago because of safety reasons.
The South Franklin community still has to deal with drug problems and violence issues, but with the help of the community center the area is improving. In 2013 9-1-1 calls from the area decreased to about 636 calls.
While the area is still undergoing changes and improvements it is now a place that Divine is proud to call her home.