The Cuban and Latin American Health Initiative is an extension of the Faith and Community Wellness Initiative. It is based on the premise that housing and delivery of health services in underdeveloped neighborhoods in the United States and those in the Caribbean and Latin America are similar. Therefore, multistate studies, including the United States, of these problems can produce knowledge that is useful to the various countries regardless of the socioeconomic system and stage of development. The Center for Urban Studies has been working with the Cuban Health and Housing Center to create a multistate team to develop a joint proposal and pursue funding for such a project.
The Center for Urban Studies is working in partnership with the King Urban Life Center (KULC) and the surrounding neighborhood to create a neighborhood plan to regenerate its “shattered urban design” and bolster the housing market for both the homeowner and renter classes in the target area. During the spring of 2015, a group of graduate students enrolled in Dr. Henry L. Taylor’s Race, Class and Gender course (URP 508) embarked on a semester-long research, data gathering and planning process to create a preliminary neighborhood plan for the KULC neighborhood. By “shattered urban design,” the class was referring to “a neighborhood setting characterized by numerous parcels of vacant (unbuilt) lots, abandoned structures combined with many poorly maintained rental properties.” The work on this project is continuing during the 2015-2016 academic year with funding received from a UB Civic Engagement and Public Policy (CEPP) fellowship grant. One of the limitations during the preliminary planning process was the lack of participation on behalf of the renter population in the neighborhood, which makes up around 50 percent of the residents of the target area. The research being explored through the CEPP grant looks at the challenges faced by low-income renters and homeowners in a shrinking, underdeveloped neighborhood in the City of Buffalo. The primary focus of the research will be on the renter class and how the fate of homeowners is linked to their plight. The secondary focus is to understand how the challenges facing the renter class impact homeowners and the overall viability of the housing market in underdeveloped neighborhoods. The Center for Urban Studies believes the findings of this study will provide insights to the challenges faced in neighborhoods across the city and that the recommendations will map out strategies to assist the renter class, help homeowners, strengthen the housing market in an inner-city community and spur neighborhood development.
The East Side History Project (ESHP) is currently supported through a SUNY Networks of Excellence grant received by the Center for Urban Studies in June 2015. The center is collaborating with SUNY Buffalo State’s Archives, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (BECPL), King Urban Life Center and Randforce Associates to develop a neighborhood-based strategy to collect historical documents from East Side residents to expand a current collection to include archival documents on neighborhood life and culture in a section of the City of Buffalo. This is a public history project based on the East Side of Buffalo that seeks to interview residents about their everyday life experiences and collect documents like photographs, videos, letters and historical ephemera about the city. The project uses history to shed light on current neighborhood planning and development issues facing residents of the East Side. These historical documents will then be scanned, organized and added to a larger body of documents pertaining to the development of modern public housing in the City of Buffalo. Initially, the project was funded in part by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to the BECPL. From 2012 to 2014, the Center for Urban Studies digitized, indexed, and categorized over 8,000 historical documents from the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) and residents of the BMHA Commodore Perry development. The project included arranging, preserving and describing a collection of historical documents to current archival standards. These historical documents pertain to urban life, culture and city building in Buffalo during the first half of the 20th century. This collection was generated during the onset of modern city planning and represents the choices made by urban planners and leaders in the building of the post-industrial city.
The Center for Urban Studies and the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior have partnered with the Greater Buffalo United Ministries (GRUM) and the Greater Buffalo United Affordable Healthcare Network (GBUAHN) to test the effectiveness of a neighborhood-scaled intervention model in a predominantly black, urban neighborhood in helping blacks rise above their cost benefit analysis approach to life, which is based on a present orientation to engage in preventive behavior, use primary care services regularly, and participate in clinical trials, in order to lessen the health disparities of this group when compared to the rest of Erie County. This model is novel because it partners a faith-based organization, a network of minority physicians and a research university. Together these partners can collaborate to improve access to preventive and primary care, as well as clinical trials by facilitating extensive relationship building between community health workers, parishioners and residents of the target neighborhood. The Center for Urban Studies has conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment to inform the design and implementation of this neighborhood and faith-based health care delivery system for Medicaid eligible residents in GRUM neighborhoods. The purpose of this Community Health Needs Assessment was to identify the unmet health challenges for GRUM communities in Erie and Niagara Counties. It outlined a strategy for addressing those needs by developing a set of health indicators and metrics to monitor progress in meeting those needs. The assessment provided GRUM and GBUAHN with the framework needed to forge an implementation strategy to address these unmet health needs in the GRUM community. The long-term goal of the project is to assess the role that aggressive outreach can play in improving health outcomes in a neighborhood and refining this model so that it can be replicated locally and across the United States.
The Academic Summer Camp on Neighborhood Development is designed to improve the skills of middle school students in reading, writing, research and computer use. By working on a neighborhood development project on the East Side, the students also develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving. The camp is hosted annually by the Center for Urban Studies on the South Campus in partnership with the Erie County Youth Bureau, UB’s Liberty Partnerships Program, UB’s Community Relations and Say Yes to Education Buffalo. The summer program has an open enrollment policy for students from across the city, although children from East Side zip codes, highest in need, are its prime target population. The Academic Summer Camp on Neighborhood Development is a problem-based and project-centered learning program. It seeks to reinforce skills in reading, writing, research, computer use, critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving by having students work on real-world projects during an intensive six-week summer program. This program is based on the nationally recognized “Mini-Education Pipeline” program developed by the Center for Urban Studies and has four interrelated goals: (1) stop the summer loss of learning, (2) increase student motivation, (3) build interactive relationships with the students’ parents and (4) instill college-going culture in students and their parents/caregivers.
The Community as Classroom (CAC) is a project-based program at PS 37 Marva J. Daniel Futures Preparatory School (Futures Academy) in the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo that involves the children in solving real-world problems that are related to neighborhood development and creative place-making. The CAC attempts to motivate 5th-8th grade students in an underperforming school by showing them the connection between lessons learned in the classroom and their abilities to build better neighborhoods and cities. This is done through action-based projects that grapple with real issues facing the Fruit Belt, the East Side and neighborhoods across the Buffalo and Greater Niagara Region. The goal is to increase student learning by showing them the utilitarian value of education, and demonstrating how knowing and learning can be used to improve the quality of their lives. The program is not only unique in how it approaches teaching and learning — utilizing UB undergraduate and graduate students from various departments across campus as instructors — but also the way in which it uses children as catalytic agents with the capacity to change the neighborhoods in which they are embedded. The CAC is a place-conscious approach to education that creates highly interactive linkages and connections between home and family, school, and neighborhood. It also teaches inner city elementary students about neighborhood development and urban planning and how they can help redevelop the communities in which they live and go to school if they are willing to put forth the effort. It produces not only good students but also civically engaged residents dedicated to building a better city.
Students at Waterfront Elementary School, Futures Academy, East High School, and Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts are served by the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) for the purposes of dropout prevention. Staff have engaged at-risk students in grades 5-12 with research-based interventions, including growth mindset/brainology and student success skills curricula, both designed to bolster students’ soft skills and increase academic achievement. As a result of these multifaceted interventions, overall GPAs and standardized test scores have increased, and students’ levels of risk, in terms of dropout, have also decreased across the board. As a partner with Buffalo Public Schools, LPP has established a pronounced and effective presence in the schools and continues to connect students to resources available at UB.
Since 2008, the Fruit Belt Clean-a-thon serves to bring students, teachers, residents and community partners together to work together cleaning vacant lots and planting community gardens, all with the goal of making the Fruit Belt neighborhood and City of Buffalo a better place to live. It is brought to fruition through collaboration with the Futures Academy faculty, staff and students; UB’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning; Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. (BNMC); and neighborhood residents and stakeholders. Additional locations: Downtown Campus; Fruit Belt