Tough Neighborhood and Tougher Kids
By: Matt Lyons
Oceanside CA— This is a story of good kids in not so good circumstances. It’s about a community that could be anywhere U.S.A. A story of personal sacrifice, overcoming obstacles, not feeling sorry for yourself, and holding your head up and walking proud.
The neighborhood is called “Crown Heights.” It’s only about 10 square blocks and is located near downtown Oceanside, California. It’s just west of Interstate 5 and is bordered by this freeway, Center Avenue, Horne Place and Missouri Avenue. The populations for this area is about 6000 and is 80% Hispanic culturally. Many times both parents work a job just to make financial ends meet and creating “latch key” kids who go home to an empty house until the parents come home from work.
There are no convenience stores in the neighborhood like the other neighborhoods, only re purposed U-Haul trucks that sell fresh produce, milk, and grocery items, and mostly, only Spanish is spoken. These same vending trucks are the only commercial enterprise in the neighborhood.
The area’s old name “Center Division” was taken from two of its major streets and is a moniker still used by the local gang that occasionally mark the alley walls with graffiti. Services and facilities are few and included only a small city-owned community garden and a tiny park the size of a basketball court. Not much at all. Crown Heights is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city and is filled with modest apartment buildings and a few single-family homes. The windows of the homes have security bars on the windows and gates.
Crown Heights has been trying to shed the dark negative images for years, with only little success. That tough image has been changing with each passing year. Changing because the people who live here are becoming involved in improving the community.
There is however, an oasis of sorts located right in the middle of it all. It is a building used as the city’s Resource Center. The celebrated architect Irving Gill designed it. This building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and was one of the last works by Gill, a pioneer of modern architecture.
North County Lifeline occupies it today.
North County Lifeline, Inc. is a non-profit human services organization that offers a wide range of services to the people of North San Diego County, including Crown Heights. Their mission is to build partnerships and deliver services to children, families and individuals that resolve problems, increase skills and nurture self-reliance.
More specifically, dedicated professionals Barb Moreno, Francisco “Pancho” Flores and others who work each day in this neighborhood to provide an outreach for the people who live here in Crown Heights.
We have all heard, read, or seen the results from the social economic, and cultural forces that push many adolescents in the direction of gangs or delinquent behavior.
Those kids who are on the fence, who want to feel valued, have a sense of belonging are the ones who are the targets for intervention.
Organized sports are an excellent catalyst in more ways than one. Studies have shown that endurance sports are proven to actually raise IQ, not to mention they help build confidence and teach young people emotional self-control.
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