There was a time – not so long ago – when the U.S. Postal Services refused to deliver mail to Andy Street, a one-block community comprised of 24 multi-family dwelling units located in the northeast section of Long Beach.
The drugs, gangs and violence were simply too much. Even the Long Beach Police Department had labeled it as a “hot spot” for crime in 2002, with multiple calls coming in daily for gunshots, murder and theft.
Fast forward to present day, and so much has changed, in large part to the efforts of LaVerne Duncan and the Andy Street Community Association (ASCA), a nonprofit that responded to a failed community and empowered it to create a better, safer, more vibrant space.
“It has taken a long time,” said Duncan, now executive director for Andy Street and an original member of the task force created to respond to the neighborhood’s issues back in 2002. “But we have come so far since those dark days.”
Since its inception, ASCA’s presence in the North Long Beach community has been a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. Landlords were trained to work with the community, invest in security and landscaping, and partner with their tenants. Additionally, partnerships were built with the community and the Long Beach Police Department. As Duncan notes, everyone had a role to play. No one got a free pass.
Today, there is still the occasional police call, but they tend to be about loud music or other minor disruptions – not the violent crimes experienced so often in the early 2000s.
As such, the focus of Andy Street has evolved. With a safer community, Duncan and a few of her community partners have shifted to creating programs to support the youth in the neighborhood, investing in helping them recognize the importance of shaping their neighborhood’s success, and also delivering programs to inspire them to grow.
“Currently we have our music academy, where we offer free music lessons to children in the area,” said Duncan. “Instruments are provided, the kids learn how to read music and we are fortunate to have Charles Julian Fearing, a multi-platinum selling songwriter working with the students.”
Additionally, ASCA is bringing back cooking classes this spring to teach children the basics of healthy eating, meal prep and how to make their own meals. Molina Healthcare, based in Long Beach, has offered up their corporate kitchen to host the classes, and a local Wal-Mart will donate ingredients.
“Not every kid is going to play football and basketball,” said Duncan. “We want to give them different options to pursue, and expose them to other areas to get inspired and learn.”
ASCA has also funded seven scholarships via their annual fundraisers, helping local youth with expenses to attend college.
“Youth is our future, and we need to keep offering quality life programming to get our kids successful and striving to reach goals,” said Duncan.
ASCA touches an average of 75 to 100 kids annually, and all funding is directed to programming.
“It has been so rewarding to see the Andy Street neighborhood come so far through the years,” said LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. “Today, they serve as a blueprint for similar communities in the county that struggle with crime, violence, unemployment and beyond. LaVerne and her team should be commended for the transformation. It is truly amazing, and a testament to what can be achieved when the community comes together and forms partnerships to change.”
To learn more about Andy Street, and how you can support or participate in its efforts, visit andystreetlb.org.