A DeKalb County community is in crisis. So say many who live and work within ZIP code 30032.
Criminal activity and drug usage have claimed the 30032 community, which suffers from isolation, lack of resources and lack of community support, said Lenean Priester, CEO/founder of Priester Studio.
A Community Café held Jan. 17 at Decatur’s Bethesda Cathedral began a 12-month strategy to address the problems and implement solutions to the crisis.
“The 30032 area has a high number of people with HIV infection,” Priester continued. “There are gas stations selling crack pipes. Used needles can be found on the ground along some streets, and there are known streets for male and female prostitution.”
Several factors combine to indicate 30032 is in crisis. Statistics about child abuse and neglect, gang violence and the highest number of foreclosures in DeKalb contribute to the area’s problems, explained Gladys Shy, coordinator of Community Partnership for Protecting Children. “We looked at other areas, too,” explained Shy, “but we have to start somewhere.”
“This community was A-1 in the ’70s versus what it is now,” recalled Elder Stewart Reese III, assistant pastor at Bethesda Cathedral and president of Austin Drive Community Development. This was once a community whose residents were Black business owners and professional athletes, he added.
“Today, people know this to be a high-crime area,” Reese continued. “If you come to the 30032 area, the perception is that you may get robbed, raped or murdered.”
The Community Café’s agenda noted the Department of Family and Children Services reported inadequate supervision, child physical abuse and abandonment and rejection as the top three maltreatments for DeKalb County.
“Children have nowhere to go,” said Priester, who also served as facilitator for the event. “Inadequate supervision leads to teen pregnancy, high school dropouts, home invasions and a number of other crimes.”
“Just complaining is not going to do anything,” she said. “But if you act, do something, changes will come.”
What can improve 30032? According to some at the Sunday’s meeting, combined efforts from residents, businesses and government agencies could bring about changes. Among the suggestions were: Begin with small acts like speaking to neighbors and picking up trash in the community even when it’s not in one’s own yard.
“Some problems can be handled with parent training,” Priester offered. “More state involvement, motivational speaking, making connections with apartment complexes and connecting with area businesses would also help.
Reese proposed that churches should positively impact their surrounding communities. “If there is a church in a community, then the community must improve,” he insisted. “If the community does not improve, we need to check out the church.
“We need to learn to trust each other, too,” Reese continued. “We are seen as consumers and others cater to us. We need to be the business owners in our community and provide the services such as nail shops, restaurants and the other things we use.”
“Some parents don’t have everything they need and DFACS is just a resource,” said Shy. “I don’t want to see child abuse and neglect continuing in DeKalb County. I want to work to see change.”
“We don’t only want to talk, we want to act and get results,” said Priester. “Everyone has a talent that can serve as a resource to help improve a community.”
The Community Café will meet every third Sunday at Bethesda Cathedral, 1989 Austin Drive, Decatur. For more information or registration, contact Priester at (678) 663-8975 or email: Lenean@priesterstudio.com.