Understanding and Assessing Mid City in LA as a Community

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Community refers to a mutual support or contribution to a goal by " people who occupy a geographical area: people who were together engaged in economic and political activities and who constituted a self - governing social unit with some common values and experiencing feelings of belonging to one another" ( Mitchell, 1979, p. 31). Examples of different types of communities are urban, suburban or rural. Also we can classify communities by geographical location, culture such as ethnic groups and community organizations.

Mid City in Los Angeles is an urban community in transition. Twenty years ago this area was infested with drug dealers and many shootings occurred, mostly by gang members. Today this neighborhood is safe enough to walk alone on streets, at least during daytime, gathering spots are safe and the streets are clean. Merchants and residents take pride in this developing community (Los Angeles Times, Febrary13, 2010: 2).

In social work practice, an ecological approach shows the person in environment. This approach shows the connections between individuals, families, cultures, communities, and policies. Therefore identifies and intervenes upon strengths and weaknesses in the processes between these systems. We look at the person in ecosystem. In our case community is the ecosystem. Community influences how we plan. Some communities have more resources than others; some clients have more needs than others.

Social workers need to understand the dynamics between these systems in order to be able to assess and plan for the client. The social worker can gain all this information by knowing and understanding the community.

Netting et al. (2010) refers to human behavior theory as relationships among systems (space,structure, functions) and how people behave in those systems ( communities). During 1930's Mid-City was a thriving community, until the 1965 riots. Since the riots this community was struggling and then the second riot hit in 1992. Since then this city is in transition with some noticeable developments, such as the Midtown Crossing. People feel the sense of community, streets are safe and clean. There are grassroot organizations, that help organize the citizens and also keep crime level under control.

General Description of the Immersion Community

The community visited at the community immersion was Mid-City, a city located in the city of Los Angeles, in Los Angeles County. There are communities within Mid -City, like Crestview, Fremont Place, Lafayette Square, Little Ethiopia, Picfair Village and Victoria Park. Mid-City's geographical boundaries are Hoover Ave. on the east, Pico Boulevard on the north, Fairfax Avenue on the west, and the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on the south. - HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picfair_Village,_Los_Angeles,_California"Village is to the northwest, Wilshire Park is to the northeast, Arlington Heights is to the east, Jefferson Park is to the southeast, and Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills are to the south. Mid- City is surrounded by communities of Carthay, Culver City, Jefferson Park, Mid-Wilshire, Palms, Pico-Robertson and West Adams. In 2008, Mid -City had a population of 55,016, based on L.A. Department of City Planning estimates.

In the 1920s and '30s, Mid-City was a dynamic community. Until the 1965 riots, Mid-City thrived, but since then Mid-City struggled for the last 40 years, taking a second hard hit when riots striked the city in 1992. After the riots, retailers were hesitant moving into Mid -City. Midtown Crossing is a first noticeable development to bring in a big volume of new stores to the area.

Almost quarter of its residents were living in poverty, based on the 2000 Census. Today, despite all the inprovements, Mid -City remains a working class area. Mid-City is ethnically diverse neighborhood, with a wide range of incomes represented. Residents who live in this community are 38.3% black, 9.5% are white, 3.9% are Asian, and 3.1% claim 'Other'. 45.2% of the people claim Hispanic ethnicity.There are 2,748 single parent families, the average household size is 2.8 people, the median age is 31, the median household income is 43,711 dollars,( Census 2000). People are moving in from a high priced nearby cities because Mid-City, is conveniently located near downtown, Hollywood and the Westside. Some residents commute to work to a nearby cities and also many retail business owners live in neighboring areas.

Community Structure

Mid - City is an incorporated community with its own government, led by city mayor and council members. This community is within the City of Los Angeles and incorporated within Los Angeles County.

Mid -City belongs to Council District 10, the councilmember for this district is Herb Wesson. The purpose of the Mid City Neighborhood Council is to connect the ethnically diverse community and to improve the quality of life in the Mid - City area. Tony Nicholas is a grassroot leader in this neighboorhood. He is the head of Tom Bradley Family and youth Center. Communities need leaders, who are making the community a better place to live. Without leaders, the community stagnates.

Food markets are presented in this area such as, Vons, Ralphs, which are large shopping areas with a wide variety of foods consumed by general consumers. The cost of food is less in average then in 7-Eleven stores, where the food variety is less and the prices are slightly higher. There are also ethnic food stores in the area such as Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market, Kosher Club, New India Sweets and Spices and Tortilleria Expresion. Big store chains such as Target, Ross or Toys R Us are located in this area along with many small retail businesses. During my community visit, I noticed many restaurants ,but not many fast food places, like Burger King or Del Taco.

Harrison et al.(1990) suggests that socialization refers to processes by which individuals become actively functioning members of the society in which they live. Ethnicity is important in socialization regarding values, customs, behavioral roles and language usage.Biculturalism was noticeable, especially among latino and african american youth walking on the city streets.

To maintain a formal social control, institutions such as police, jails and courts are formed to enforce the law.  Mid -City has a police department located on Venice Blvd. There is no courthouse in this area. During my daytime visit in this city, I did see a police car passing by on Pico Blvd. twice.

Throughout Mid-City there is a Temple represented along with Ethiopian, Catholic, Lutheran and a Baptist church. This indicates a religiously diverse neighborhood. There are civic organizations like the Boy Scout of America or a Jewish Foundation Council among others. The Baptist Church on Cochran Ave. is known by serving daily meals to anyone who shows up, no questions asked.

Community Characteristics

In this community there are 811 businesses, 6,255 employees with an annual payroll of 154,101,000 dollars. The median household income is 43,711 dollars (Census 2000). There are numerous auto body shops in this area. They pollute the drinking water with their paint waste, which brings up a community concern. Some residents commute to work to a nearby cities and also many retail business owners live in neighboring areas.

Providing educational opportunities Los Angeles State College, Los Angeles Community Adult School is located in this area along with several nursing and beauty vocational schols. There are major universities like USC, UCLA and CSULA in the city of Los Angeles.

Venkatesh (1997) adresses the importance of levels delivering social services within a community. The first level or tier includes organizations that established themselves in the community thru programming, resource navigation and assisting individuals. This is also called an elite tier, therefore Neigborhood City Council belongs to this tier. I would also classify in this tier social service agencies, such as the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services.The second tier are organizations that do not provide sertvices,but are helping to fulfill a void the community. Non-profit organizations would be considered for this group. There are 16 non-profit agencies in Mid-City area. Social Services for profit, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities would fit into this group.The third tier is "grassroot helpers" who's success depends on their relationship with their clients. In Mid- City area, Tom Bradley Family and Youth Center belongs to this tier. This center is the only community center for miles in the Mid-City area. Also, this center provides after school tutoring, computer learning programs,gang prevention programs and other assistance to needy families.This center is also a community meeting place. The way services are linked to each other, Royse et al.( 2007) suggests that it is useful to update the agency's community directory. Most agencies maintain a file of health and human resources, when referring clients. Also 211 is a phone number that provides social service referrals within Los Angeles County.

One of the strenghts of this community are geographic: Mid - City is located in the heart of Los Angeles. From economical perspective small businesses are doing well in the last five years and more upscale shops begin to enter the area. Neigborhood counsel is advocating on behalf to help support local businesses. Crime level and graffity activities are down, due to stricter police involvement. Community problems include gang activities, narcotic sales and graffity vandalism is still high compared to other nearby areas. One of the community issues is the Pico East/Olimpic West proposal. It would eliminate street parking and bring traffic congestion to Pico Blvd.causing loss of business. Among other issues the over concentration of auto body shops in the area and their negative impact on the environment. Department of City Planning along with councilmember Herb Wesson are working on finding a solution for this community problem.

Community values in Mid- City are taking colective approach to solve issues. Residents are eager to keep the area clean, safe, and they are optimistic about small business development in the Mid-City. During my community visit, I noticed one homeless man, who was collecting plastic bottles for recycling. There is no homeless shelter in the community. Homelessness is more present at the nearby Los Angeles Downtown area.

Community Differences

Communities in inner city areas share a melting pot in regards to race, gender, single parent families, employment, housing and education. Oppression refers to unequal distribution of power and inequality in communities. In this community the only formal oppression is a possible practice of some banks or lending institutions. In certain areas these institutions do not approve loan or mortgage applications. They prevent low- income people from getting the loans and to become homeowners, rather than renters. Among covert mechanism of oppression should be mentioned that often certain individuals in a community are not familiar with their rights, and lack information keeps communities oppressed. As an example lot of body shops are having underground tanks filled with paint or other toxic chemicals. These tanks are polluting the drinking water in the area. Acculturation can threaten the immigrant individual's structural composition, by changing the family roles. Young children acculturate easier than adults. Children move out of the family into the community and school. They may move away from their parents and their original culture and parental leadership may diminish.

Current problems with discrimination are the lack of health care centers in low- income neighborhoods, created by linguistic, cultural and socioeconomic trends. Language is one part of culture that has influence on healthcare access for some ethnic groups. In our case Ethiopian population is facing this challenge in this area. Because the lack of health insurance, this ethnic communities are less likely to use health services for preventive care.

Summary and Conclusion

Mid City in Los Angeles is an urban community in transition. Currently this neighborhood is safe enough to walk alone on streets, at least during daytime, gathering spots are safe and the streets are clean. Merchants and residents take pride in this developing community. From economical perspective small businesses are doing well in the last five years and more upscale shops begin to enter the area. Neigborhood counsel is advocating on behalf to help support local businesses. Crime level and graffity activities are down, due to stricter police involvement. There are numerous auto body shops in this area. They pollute the drinking water with their paint waste, which brings up a community concern. This concern needs to be further reviewed and assess the urgency of this problem.

REFERENCES

Banks, S. (2010, February 13). L.A.'s Mid-City still a community up for grabs. Los

Angeles Times, p. A2.

Harrison, Algea, Wilson, Melvin, Pine, Charles, Chan, Samuel, and Buriel, Raymond.

(1990). Family ecologies of ethnic minority children. Child Development, 61: 347-

362.

Mitchell, G. D. (1979). A New Dictionary of the Social Sciences. Hawthorne, NY:

Aldine Publishing Company.

Netting, Ellen F., Peter M. Kettner, Steven L. McMurtry. ( 2010). Social work Macro

Practice. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.

Royse, David D., Surjit S. Dhooper and Elizabeth L. Rompf. (2007). Field Instruction: a

guide for social work students. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.

United States Census Bureau. (2000). Retrieved from

http://www.census.gov/

Venkatesh, S. A. (1997). The Three-tier model: how helping occurs in urban, poor

communities. Social Service Review, 12/97, 574-606.

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