Where do we go from here?
Mass migration, climate change, war and disruption—this is the backdrop of the world that we live in. From Great Britain to Germany, Istanbul to Nice to Orlando, Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, it is clear we are struggling to be "neighbors living as friends." Fear, rage and violence are poisoning our plans and fouling our future, creating isolation. And we simply cannot continue to build more walls that we will have to take down later—walls we will regret.
Houston knows how to welcome. We are a globally-connected, culturally-fluent city where migration and resettlement are central functions.
At Neighborhood Centers, our work does not exist apart from the events happening around the world. We are responsive to what's around us. Our purpose is to keep our region a welcoming place of opportunity. We build on-ramps for universal aspirations—to earn, to learn and to belong.
Our beliefs about people and communities sit at the core of the choices we make. We extend our beliefs about belonging to include those who are considered strangers. Our supporters helped us create landing places for people on a shared path no matter where they are from. We are all in this together. We are all in the same boat.
The most successful cities of the future will be those that most swiftly convert human desperation into aspiration and aspiration into achievement. Angela Blanchard,
President and CEO
Neighborhood Centers is a pioneering community development organization that has impacted and transformed neighborhoods across the Greater Houston region for 110 years.
We bring resources, education and connection to more than half a million people to keep our region a place of opportunity for EVERYONE. And this number is growing. Building on the strengths and aspirations of each community, Neighborhood Centers creates programs and services that are responsive, impactful and relevant.
Wherever we are, we measure our impact on the ability for people to earn, learn and belong—the fundamental human aspirations that matter most to our neighbors, and to all of us.
How can I gain the skills I need to succeed in the workforce? How will I provide for my family? Is there a place for me in this world? It boils down to this: will I be able to earn, learn and belong? Our future depends upon the residents of our city finding answers to these questions.
The On Ramp: Economic Mobility
Why East Aldine? Discover the untold story of this community and what lies ahead.
The residents of East Aldine have big hopes and they shared them with us. We listened. Now, we share them with you.
It’s been quite a journey. See our progress unfold as we work side-by-side with East Aldine residents to discover the community’s greatest assets and design a vision for the future.
With East Aldine’s unwavering determination and hunger for opportunity, we’re working together to build its residents what they need.
In an unincorporated area of Harris County, 51,000 community members call East Aldine home. The community struggles with a lack of resources, poor infrastructure and revolving businesses. For decades, community members have had no choice but to be resourceful and use what they have to make things work.
However, this community wanted more. Two years, 142 interviews and 178 community surveys later, we learned that residents desired a place where they could put their skills into practice or learn how to start a business. Together, we are working toward that vision.
Houston leaders who have made a way for themselves are now making a way for others. Through their support and unwavering determination, the new Economic Opportunity Center will break ground and literally put a roof over their aspirations. The center will be devoted to learning, making and selling in a unique Maker Market, as well as providing financial support to small businesses through our Entrepreneur Academy. Workforce readiness training and adult education classes will also be available.
Neighborhood Centers thanks our fearless leaders for investing in the community and families of East Aldine.
- Joan and Stanford Alexander
- Secretary James A. Baker III and
- Susan G. Baker
- Sandra and Mike Ballases
- Polly and Murry Bowden
- The Brown Foundation Inc.
- Wendy and Bill Chiles
- Cullen Foundation
- Jonathan and Barbara Day
- Anne and Charles W. Duncan, Jr.
- East Aldine Management District
- The Elkins Foundation
- Harris Co. Judge and Mrs. Ed Emmett
- The William Stamps Farish Fund
- Fondren Foundation
- Houston Endowment
- JPMorgan Chase Foundation
- J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation
- Reinnette and Stan Marek
- Robert and Janice McNair Foundation
- Neighborhood Centers Board of Directors
- Doug Pitcock
- Daniel and Edith Ripley Foundation
- Samuels Family Foundation
- Jeri and Marc Shapiro
- Heather C. and Mike Simpson
- U.S. Economic Development Association
- U.S. Treasury
- David Weekley Family Foundation
- Mrs. Raye White
+ many contributors $49,999 and under
Olga and Iveth Reyes are the "hustlers" of the family. They told us about their dream of starting a cake-making business. Soon after enrolling in our Entrepreneur Academy program, they developed a solid business plan. But Iveth's goal extended far beyond a successful business. She wanted to give her mother Olga the opportunity to quit her job so that she could dedicate her life to something she truly loved. "It makes it feel attainable, like we could actually do it. We weren't sure before. Now, it's not just a daydream. It can actually be done," said Iveth. And Tarascas will soon open its doors to the East Aldine neighborhood.
We Listen. We Respond.
Houston is a magnet for people seeking a better life. Our industries are expanding and creating more jobs. Yet, not enough people are reaping the rewards. Too many are left behind, unaware of opportunities that exist in their own backyards.
Despite Houston's historically low unemployment rate, it's not all good news. We are seeing thousands of individuals struggling to make ends meet at the end of each month despite working one or more jobs.
Our region also has an excess supply of middle-skills jobs—living-wage jobs—that are going unfilled. By 2017, there will be more than 74,000 annual job openings in middle-skills occupations. However, employers are not finding the skilled workers needed to fill these high-demand jobs and there are not enough people who meet the minimum credentials to qualify for them. This is Houston's very real middle-skills gap.
Now is the time to help our neighbors move out of poverty and into good jobs. We must invest in our people. This is our human capital moment.
- Working full time, 6.4 percent of our region’s 25-64-year-olds (that’s 400,000 people) live below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
- Of Houston’s 3.6 million jobs, 41 percent (1.4 million) are middle-skills.
The People We Need are Already Here
Almost half a million people working full-time are living in poverty and, with a lack of skilled workers to meet industry demands, Houston's poverty and skills gap are inextricably linked.
So where do we go from here? We get to work.
In 2015, Neighborhood Centers launched ASPIRE. In partnership with JPMorgan Chase, Workforce Solutions and the Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston, Neighborhood Centers will connect 1,000 underemployed individuals to living-wage jobs.
Our region will move forward because organizations and leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors are aligning the right resources for employers and hardworking people. Neighborhood Centers is making those connections.
"Our strong beliefs about the importance of field work and field workers are at the core of who we are as a builder and what drives the success of our business. This is evident now more than ever, given the pressing issues our industries are facing in regards to workforce," said Mike Vaughn, President of Vaughn Construction.
"Economic opportunity is increasingly out of reach for too many people. We are committed to working with partners on initiatives like ASPIRE to address this inequality by giving more Houstonians the chance to obtain the skills and education they need to get a meaningful job and to succeed.” Jamie Dimon,
Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase
Building on Strengths
With development stemming from the Port of Houston and the city's economic growth among the petrochemical, manufacturing and construction industries that sit along the 50-mile stretch of factories, the Pasadena community is the epicenter of enormous momentum.
However, a large number of Pasadena residents is disconnected from the economic boom that surrounds them. Neighborhood Centers' presence in Pasadena is minimizing this gap by working with local partners, including Workforce Solutions, San Jacinto College, the City of Pasadena, the Economic Alliance for the Port Region and others, to educate and connect residents to the growing number of high demand jobs.
For 50 years, our Cleveland-Ripley center has served the Pasadena/South Houston community. Relative to its size, it is our most heavily-utilized community center, but the current space has become inadequate to address the changing needs of the community. We are expanding our work with a vision for a community center specializing in Workforce Development.
Building upon the strengths and needs of local residents, we imagine a center where neighbors can connect to employers, access training and learn necessary job skills—a center that becomes the on-ramp to a stable career path and greater financial stability for the more than 41,000 Pasadena residents we serve each year.
Every investment we make in people today will be lasting, permanent and impactful.
Creating an Effective Welcome
Students at the Baker-Ripley New Neighbor School live in a world where people of different cultures, religions, race and ethnicity co-exist and are welcomed. Diversity and inclusiveness is what they know and, because of that, they will thrive and become stronger local and global leaders.
Natural disasters happen all over the world—they also happen in Houston. And when they occur, they often leave utter disruption and mass migration in their wake.
Contrary to what most people in the United States believe, aging is not something we should dread, but something to look forward to.
Everything Old is New Again
During the turn of the 20th century, a mass influx of people left behind their belongings, their loved ones and their homes in pursuit of a better life in America. Settlement Houses throughout the country became the landing places for the newly-arrived. 110 years later, Neighborhood Centers is still rolling out Houston's welcome mat.
Today, countries and cities around the world are being challenged to welcome the largest mass migration of people in history. The majority of Houstonians know firsthand what it's like to leave behind an old life and start over—like Mwende. For many of our neighbors, coming here meant starting anew, with everything that was once familiar, understood and navigated with ease—completely GONE. This transition also meant learning a new language while maneuvering an endless number of foreign educational, financial, workforce and political systems.
Our way of welcome is what makes it possible for people to move forward and start a life here. At Neighborhood Centers, welcome is:
- helping a returning veteran translate her experience for civilian employers.
- working with a skilled immigrant to get him permission to work.
- teaching parents English so that they can become a voice for their kids at school.
- developing civically engaged Community Engineers.
The measure of a great global city is not about who is there, but who is welcomed there. Angela Blanchard
Houston is the most ethnically and racially diverse metropolitan area in the United States and home to a fast-growing economy and population—welcoming 165,000 people annually.
In 2014, the Houston metro area had a total population of 6.2 million, of whom nearly 23 percent (1.4 million) were foreign-born. From 2000-2013, Houston’s immigrant population grew at nearly twice the national rate: 59 percent versus 33 percent.
We are a welcoming city where migration and resettlement have essential roles. Landing places for people are necessary. Neighborhood Centers is one of those landing places. In the heart of Houston’s most diverse and densely populated community, our Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center, one of our five community centers, focuses on welcoming newly arrived individuals in an area The New York Times calls the port of entry for many immigrants. In 2015, this center served more than 56,000 residents from within and around the Gulfton/Sharpstown community where more than 60 countries are represented and more than 80 percent of residents speak a language other than English.
We host monthly forums where dedicated groups of immigration attorneys volunteer their time to help thousands of families process their residency or citizenship—continuing our mission of helping our neighbors belong.
Houston is at the forefront of the nation’s demographic and economic outlook. We can be diverse and separated—or we can be diverse and inclusive. It's our choice.
Neighborhood Centers chooses the latter, and we build on-ramps that help people earn, learn and belong.
- 2,000 legal consultations
- 1,350 completed citizenship applications
- $2M direct savings to our neighbors
- 25,000 immigration forum attendance
2010 & 2015 Neighborhood Centers statistics
Welcome in Unexpected Ways
Learning is rooted in community and community is what sits at the core of the decisions we make.
Our Head Start early childhood centers and Promise Community charter schools are all welcoming places of learning for the entire community. Places where parents become true leaders and advocates because their voices are valued and respected. Places where our students’ talents and strengths are discovered and nurtured, preparing them to become lifelong learners and leaders in their community.
Learning is not isolated from community and the ties among neighbors and schools must be strong, not divided. When community is in the classroom, children own their stories and honor the stories of their classmates. We encourage our kids to explore, navigate the real world and share new perspectives.
Our New Neighbor elementary school for recently-arrived immigrants and refugee children expanded in 2016. Forty-three kids from all over the world, many of whom have never before stepped inside a school setting, are learning academic and social English skills while gaining access to resources and connections that can help their families acculturate to their new home. See our New Neighbors in action.
Organizations and leaders around the world are looking for solutions to some of the most challenging urban issues. And they are looking to us. Our New Neighbor school is an international school model and a framework of welcome for resettlement and long-term integration for displaced populations.
If you look beyond the disruption in Houston caused by natural disasters, you see a story that has inspired people across the nation. After a storm, everything seems lost. There’s no going back. And the same questions rise to the surface among families, communities and leaders: How do we move forward? How do we begin again?
After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, and the 2015 Memorial Day and 2016 Tax Day floods, Houston’s response for immediate assistance and long-term recovery was a clear example of our instinct and history of welcome—the same lessons Neighborhood Centers knows all too well from our efforts in immigration and community development.
Within 48 hours of the 2016 Tax Day floods, Neighborhood Centers, along with partner organizations, provided door-to-door canvassing to assess the immediate needs of our neighbors. By August 2016, we reached out to more than 3,000 households. Delores Valadez is one of our neighbors whose home was swallowed by the April floods. Despite battling breast cancer, the 70-year-old shows us what true perseverance is. Let her tell you more.
Millions of lives are disrupted and displaced from political unrest, persecution and natural disasters. It’s up to all of us to determine our degree of “welcome”—to see the strengths in our new neighbors and to defeat our fears about what we may not know. We need to humanize and celebrate those who join us in our quest for welcome.
Living with Purpose
The United States faces an aging population with very real challenges coming our way, but Neighborhood Centers is taking a different perspective and telling a new story.
Older adults want to continue to live their lives with purpose—especially those coming into retirement. Recent studies reveal that having a sense of purpose has a strong impact on an older adult’s well-being and quality of life. That sense of purpose:
- lowers mortality rates by as much as 50 percent.
- reduces chances of stroke, regardless of socioeconomic and other risk factors.
- creates better overall health, including reduced chances of heart attack and lower medical costs.
When we talk with the senior community about what it means to grow older, we hear stories about passions, freedom, discovery and the joy of relationships. People, no matter what age, want to earn, learn and belong.
Seniors are looking for opportunities that support who they are and how they want to spend their time. Neighborhood Centers makes this possible. Our senior services target four core areas that address the latest trends on aging: engagement and connection, dementia care, family caregiving, and wellness. Read about Ms. Pat and Mr. Dickinson’s conversations with the Houston Chronicle and learn what the future looks like for them.
Our 11 senior centers and our Dementia Day Center, along with our home care efforts, are hubs of wellness and connection where older adults and caregivers can thrive and be well—emotionally and physically. Social engagement, for example, can reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s by 31 percent and depression by 57 percent.
Katie Scott, our Director of Dementia and Caregiver Support Services, says "They [our seniors] love being a part of the community. Their needs of feeling important and having a purpose are met."
In 2015, we served 51,768 adults over the age of 60.
“I never thought of giving up—life is to be lived. I try to do as much good as I can while I can, as much living as I can. Don’t take away from a situation if you can’t add to it.” Mary Boytin
On any given day, you can find our senior neighbors painting, exercising, dancing, traveling around Houston or learning about social media. Through our Intergenerational Program, our seniors and Promise Community School students are able to connect with each other and work together on various projects. Twelve-year-old Gabriel and his classmate Brandon are middle school students at the Ripley House campus. Frank is a senior citizen who attends the senior center at Ripley House. The boys consider him their mentor.
Frank enjoys telling them about his days in the Korean War and offers advice the 6th graders wouldn’t get anywhere else. “He cares about me and wants me to have a good life,” Gabriel said. “He wants me to have a better life then he did. At school, we have someone to talk to and learn from.” Gabriel and Brandon reciprocate and teach Frank and other seniors how to use computers and social media so they can stay connected to their families. “We enjoy being with them [the 6th graders],” Frank said. “In my day, we didn’t have this [kind of program].”