1998 NCC News Archives

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Statement on the "State of the Cities"
By The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary
On Behalf of the National Council of Churches

June 19, 1998

The National Council of Churches welcomes the State of the Cities report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The State of the Cities confirms the experience of hundreds of city congregations. There are reasons to rejoice, but there are also areas of need that urgently insist on immediate attention. We believe concern for the quality of city life is required to give practical expression to the God-given worth and dignity of every human being.

We are grateful for the signs of rebirth and renewal in many of our nation's cities. Where there is an improved economic status along with an overall decrease in urban crime, there has beeen a positive impact on millions of households.

Nonetheless, we continue to face seemingly numerous intractable problems. In particular, the growing economic disparity between the rich and poor requires aggressive attention. Although some affluent and often childless households are returning to the cities, the fact remains that in most urban areas middle class families are moving out. The HUD report reminds us that one urban family in five is poor with even higher rates for minority groups. Comparatively, less than one in ten in suburban communities is poor. The growing disparity among rich and poor erodes healthy urban life.

Even in this time of low unemployment nationwide, urban joblessness continues to be a serious problem. We commend HUD for its efforts to bring jobs back to the cities through creating empowerment zones and administering a wide range of other programs, including loans and grants. We will urge city congregations to become partners with business and government in urban, especially inner-city, job creation.

The HUD report also reminds us that the nation has a serious urban housing shortage. It is crucial that funds be committed to rehabilitate deteriorating housing stock and build new units. With many families spending more than half of their income for housing, approval of funding for at least the 100,000 new rental vouchers requested by the President is essential. We will continue to upbuild congregations as attractive communities of faith, compassion and hope for all city people and their families.

As a partner in the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program (EFSNBP), we know that urban homelessness also continues to be a serious matter. People in desperate need are drawn to the inner cities in search of work and social services often only to end up in despair and on the streets. The improvement in the economy is not able to reach these people often burdened with functional difficulties. We have been consistent advocates of increased funding for programs that serve the homeless. The EFSNBP and many HUD programs bring the non-profit community and local and federal government together as partners to help the homeless in ways that provide useful models for addressing a wide range of problems. We applaud!

Finally, we are deeply committed to improving the health of our city schools. Where they are deteriorating and unsafe, with too few teachers in classes that are too large and too poorly equipped, immediate tax-supported action is required. Where there are also many creative approaches to educating the nation's children drawing on the resources only available in urban centers, sustained support is already warranted.

We commend courageous urban educators. Correspondingly we oppose proposals that would pay for private education plans by reducing funding desperately needed to maintain, operate and improve the public schools. Strong public education, we believe, is a cornerstone of healthy democratic life.

Again, we commend HUD for making this clear and balanced report available, and we pledge our support to efforts to improve life in our nation's cities.

-end-

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