By Tyrone Roderick Williams – Director, Sacramento Promise Zone
Sacramento is a vibrant and diverse city with a long and successful history of organizations working together and using its diversity as an asset. In 2015, Sacramento received a coveted Promise Zone designation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Promise Zones receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff to help navigate federal resources, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members.
The Sacramento Promise Zone is a 22 square mile area that encompasses diverse populations in some of the economically hardest-hit neighborhoods. The zone is home to 127,893 residents where 34.93% live in poverty, 63% of children are reading below grade level and the unemployment rate is 19%. The life expectancy is 72 years versus 79 outside the zone.
The Sacramento Promise Zone goals are clear, transformational and achievable. They address five facets of neighborhood transformation: accelerating job creation, promoting healthy behaviors and increasing health interventions, promoting a sustainable economic base, increasing educational opportunities, and promoting sustainable community revitalization.
The Promise Zone is a collective impact 10 year project. The cross sector transformation strategy is founded on Sacramento’s strong culture of collaboration. Over 50 leaders from government, local institutions, non-profits and community organizations are engaged in decision-making processes to identify and implement innovative solutions. They are working to coordinate resources, build capacity and create public-private partnerships to drive area revitalization. Their work has paid off. Since receiving the designation, more than $50 million in federal and state funds have been awarded to organizations and agencies as a direct result of receiving bonus points or support from the Promise Zone.
Last year the Promise Zone, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and more than 30 representatives from 11 federal agencies including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), came together with local partners to discuss coordinated interagency support for the Sacramento Promise Zone. The results are impressive.
Job Training and Placement
The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), as the lead agency for the Promise Zone, received a $2.7 million HUD Jobs Plus grant. The grant provides resources to assemble a multi-agency team to assist public housing residents to become employed or to participate in activities leading to employment, such as education and/or job training.
Economic Development Activity
The City of Sacramento established a $10 million Innovation and Growth Fund targeting a large portion of the Promise Zone. The fund has awarded grants to local technology entrepreneurs and will offer $1 million annually to local programs that help young tech companies through leadership training, work-share spaces and other support.
With the support of the Promise Zone, California Capital Financial Development Corporation received an $80,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration to deliver Bilingual Business Success Forums focused on business corridors within the Promise Zone.
Health and Wellness
The Sacramento Promise Zone and Samuel Merritt University have created the first Community Nurse Corps. Through CNC, a cohort of experienced, registered nurses from Kaiser Permanente are serving at various local partner sites to address the Promise Zone’s community health needs, such as reducing child deaths among African American children.
SHRA received a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation Grant for revitalization activities within the Twin Rivers public housing community and surrounding area including the development of affordable housing on vacant lots in the Promise Zone.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has committed to provide no-cost energy upgrades to improve housing stability for qualified low income residents, valued at over $4 million over the next five years.
Throughout the Sacramento Promise Zone, K-12 education is benefiting from preference points and more funding opportunities. The Sacramento City Unified School District received a $1.4 million Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program grant from the Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Sacramento State University received over $7 million in grants to increase the number of K-12 teachers prepared to teach STEM subject matter. The Sacramento Promise Zone STEM partnership is working to create a continuous academic pathway starting in elementary school and extending through college and career. Recently a STEM Forum was held and staff from the FHWA California Division Office presented information on programs and activities for high school and college students offered by the department. The goal is to increase the number of Promise Zone students participating in FHWA programs.
For more information about the Sacramento Promise Zone, visit www.sacramentopromisezone.org