Crime plummets in Friendship House areas

Crime has fallen dramatically in the five low-income areas where Community Renewal operates neighborhood Friendship Houses, according to recent reports by the Shreveport and Bossier City Police Departments. Major crime has dropped an average of 52 percent in the four Friendship House areas in Shreveport and the one in Bossier City. The Shreveport and Bossier City Police Departments analyzed crime rates in the five areas, comparing crime rates from the year before the Friendship House opened through the end of 2015. “All of our partners — every person, church, business, organization, all of our schools, our city, and especially our law enforcement departments — merit the credit for this major breakthrough,” said CRI Founder Mack McCarter. “But our work is not done. We must take this trend to our entire community. “We have really only just begun. Now after 20 years we know that caring together in a sustained, nurturing, and intentional system can bring a safer city. The results are before us.” Major crime has dropped significantly in each Friendship House area since the first Friendship House opened in the Highland neighborhood 1997:                                                Allendale                                 60 percent                                                Barksdale Annex                  55 percent                                            ...

20 years, 700 children and still going strong!

Sandra Simpson moved into the first Community Renewal Friendship House 20 years ago with a heart for Highland and a passion for helping the children and families who live there. She looks back with no regrets and looks ahead with new goals. “I sit here and fight back tears sometimes when I see what God is doing in these kids. They have learned how to minister to this community and that is so wonderful to see,” she said. “I want them to know God loves them and has a plan and a purpose for their lives. And if they don’t give up, they can see God’s plan and purpose achieved in their lives.” More than 700 children have come to Sandra’s Friendship House Kids Club in the past 20 years and it’s safe to say she has had a positive influence on every one of them. And in working with local churches, businesses, schools and other partners, she has also seen many positive changes in this historic Shreveport neighborhood. “People wondered if we could make a difference here – and we have. People who were once in their own corner now come together and work together and that’s huge,” she said. One example of that is the annual Highland Picnic in Columbia Park. “It’s been such a joy to help dreams become reality. I think of people like Paul, who at one time had no hope, and I helped him earn his GED. I think of Taquilla, who came through Kids Club and was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated and now has...

Dreams flourish in a CRI Friendship House

Aaliyah Burns dreams of being a doctor. Only 12 years old, she is one of several Friendship House youth who recently participated in a six-week medical careers program. A seed was planted there and Community Renewal has been helping to nourish that dream ever since. That’s one important facet of our work – connecting people, changing lives and then, as a result, transforming communities into places where boys and girls from all backgrounds can enter medicine, business, law, engineering and many other professions. We help them become confident in their goals and competent in their ability to reach them. “I want to go to Northwestern State University and get my diploma and become a doctor because I want to help other people,” said Aaliyah, who started in the Highland Kids Club several years ago and who is now active in the Youth Club. Each of the five CRI target neighborhoods in Shreveport and Bossier City has two Friendship Houses, one geared toward teens and the other toward children. “If I didn’t have Youth Club, I would be sad because I would be bored at home. And I would be more uncomfortable around other people if I had not been in Club.” Operation Hope Director Deidre Robertson, who helps the youth focus their sights on college and career, said the Friendship House helps them find their purpose and develop into responsible adults. “I’ve seen Aaliyah blossom and open up and get more involved. The Friendship House has removed the shyness barrier for her,” Deidre said. “One of my biggest goals here is for us to raise independent, diverse students equipped...

I want the world to know there is hope!

By Ashlee Donnaud 2016 ARA graduate   My life started off having a terrible childhood. My dad went to prison when I was 4 and remained in prison throughout my childhood. I got put in foster care at the age of 13. Then I got abducted and raped, after a year of being in foster care, while walking to a friend’s house. I started experimenting with drugs and got very depressed and started cutting myself. I went in and out of mental hospitals as a teenager. I got kicked out of school around 7th grade for cutting while I was at school. Then they sent me to a school for behavior children and I soon got kicked out of that school as well. I started to do drugs and hooked up with this guy. I got beat up and every bone in the side of my face got broken. I felt like I was dying. I laid down and didn’t know if I was going to make it or if anyone was going to come help me. I was living on the streets and I was selling my body just to get by. I was lost. I didn’t think there was any hope. I ended up in Florida homeless with $5 in my pocket. I moved to Shreveport in 2014 and that’s when my life started to change for the better. I got off drugs and started surrounding myself with better things. I started the Adult Renewal Academy and started having positive people around me. I met a friend when I started the ARA and it was my first friend...

An Open Letter Regarding Allendale and I-49

Dear Friends, Community Renewal International has worked for twenty-one years to build relationships throughout the city to meet the goal of “One community connected together through caring.” Our sole purpose is in uniting people together through our common capacity to care for one another. It is important to comprehend the nature of our work and the goal we have for our community in order to understand the position of Community Renewal International in relation to the current I-49 discussion and an inner-city corridor through the Allendale neighborhood. Recently, as the I-49 issue has taken center stage, we at Community Renewal have heard many people from both sides of the debate state what they have perceived CRI’s position to be on this issue. Community Renewal International has had no official corporate position until the publishing of this letter. We as an organization have taken no steps to either encourage or discourage the building of the inner-city connector. That is not our mission. We are relationship builders and do not participate in political issues as an organization. We never have and we never will. CRI works to heal our divisions whatever they may be or wherever they arise. Political issues can be very destructive to the foundational core of the relational work that we exist to do! We even mandate that every Haven House Block Leader agree not to display political yard signs because it can immediately hinder the work of building positive neighborhood friendships. We are clear on this mandate for our whole organization. Despite this core principle for us, there seems to be some confusion related to CRI and...
Ground is broken for new Highland Friendship House

Ground is broken for new Highland Friendship House

Nine-year-old Landen Legrand couldn’t stop smiling at this summer’s groundbreaking for a new Community Renewal Friendship House. “This is exciting for us and for Mrs. Sandra,” he said. “I like it here. I feel happy here.” The new Friendship House in Shreveport’s Highland neighborhood will replace a too-small house that has been in use for 18 years. Construction funds are provided by the annual House for Hope project. “This is so uplifting for this neighborhood and will mean a higher level of excellence for our work,” said Highland Community Coordinator Sandra Simpson, who has encouraged, inspired and motivated more than 600 children at the Friendship House since the doors opened in 1997. A Friendship House is like a community center in a home, reaching out to at-risk youth and families with after-school programs, community service projects and activities that build positive relationships among family members and neighbors. The proven impact of a Friendship House ranges from major improvements in education to significant reductions in crime: Major crime in Shreveport’s four Friendship House neighborhoods has dropped by an average of 50 percent. “The heart of our city is the Highland neighborhood. this is just so wonderful to build a new Friendship House for the renewal of one of Shreveport’s oldest and finest neighborhoods,” said CRI Founder Mack...