Where is the Hope-Hill Neighborhood?
Our long time partner Hope-Hill Elementary School is located at 112 Boulevard, adjacent to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site. Hope-Hill’s school attendance boundary is shown below. Operation P.E.A.C.E., another of our partners, is located some blocks to the north of Hope-Hill, at 386 Pine Street. (On the map it’s shown as “OP”; the black rectangle shows its former location.)
This map, at a slightly different scale, shows the “Old Fourth Ward” and other inner city Atlanta districts that make up the Hope-Hill neighborhood. Our third partner, Big Bethel AME Saturday School, located on Auburn Avenue, is shown as “BB.” Hope-Hill (“HH”) and Operation P.E.A.C.E. (“OP”) also appear on the map.
What is the Neighborhood Like?
Between Hope-Hill and Operation P.E.A.C.E. to the north—running through the center of the Old Fourth Ward district—stretches the “Boulevard corridor.”
According to an April, 2012, article in Atlanta Magazine article,
There are corners of worse crime and pockets of denser poverty in Atlanta than Boulevard, but this street is notorious because it literally connects Atlanta’s haves and have-nothings while figuratively tracing a century of disconnect between the city’s polished image and the messy reality of misguided public policies.
Boulevard NE runs 1.6 miles from the CSX tracks at Decatur Street to Ponce de Leon Avenue. The road bisects the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district, crosses Freedom Parkway, fronts clusters of lofts and new high-end apartments, transports worshipers to services at historic churches, and provides access to Atlanta Medical Center. Running along a ridge, Boulevard offers a spectacular skyline view. Yet the street is dotted with trash-choked lots whose owners have been AWOL for decades. It is home to the Village of Bedford Pines, the Southeast’s highest concentration of federally subsidized housing. …
The Village of Bedford Pines is a sprawling testament to failed public policy. The dozens of buildings contain 689 apartments; with some 2,100 residents, it’s about the size of the city of Lithonia. Everyone who lives in the Village qualifies for Section 8 subsidized housing. That concentration of poverty is a catalyst for crime, says Kit Sutherland, president of the Fourth Ward Alliance and an urban historian with experience in public housing issues. “Men who don’t live there ingratiate themselves to young women in exchange for being able to carry on activities such as selling drugs or guns. If they are arrested, they give the addresses of the women on the leases. Those tenants are evicted, and the men come back and foster relationships with someone new.”
With all its challenges, the neighborhood is gentrifying, as anticipated by the 2008 Old Fourth Ward Master Plan. Still, deep pockets of poverty remain. The median annual income of families living in the Bedford Pines community is $3,000.
Our Partner Hope-Hill Elementary School
Located next to the Visitor Center at the MLK Jr. National Historic Site, Hope-Hill Elementary School (and its predecessor, John Hope Elementary) has been UUCA’s main educational partner for over two decades. The school serves about 400 students. More than 90 percent are African-American, while most of the remainder are Hispanic. The students come from varied economic backgrounds, but many have low incomes, and well over 90 percent are entitled to free or reduced price meals.
Many, though not all, of the students are academically challenged, particularly in math. Around half of the third graders fail to “meet expectations” in math on standardized tests—though that percentage decreases by the time they leave the school. In 2014 21 percent of fifth graders failed math, down from 28 percent the preceding year.
Reading is a problem too. Many Hope-Hill students enter kindergarten with a much smaller vocabulary than the average child in America. Miraculously, though, by fifth grade only ten percent failed the standardized reading test. (That’s the 2014 figure, down from a much higher 25 percent in 2013).
For many years, UUCA has been a consistent advocate for the students of Hope-Hill. In the past few years, thanks in part to UUCA’s advocacy, an increasing number of local residents and other nonprofit partners have deepened their involvement with the school.
Our Partner Operation P.E.A.C.E.
Located on Pine Street, some blocks north of Hope-Hill, our partner Operation P.E.A.C.E. provides free after school care (and an evening meal), mainly to children In the Bedford Pine area, where poverty is especially endemic. According to examiner.com,
Under the steadfast and trusted leadership of Executive Director [now actively retired, but still heavily involved] Ms. Edna Moffett, since 1995 Operation P.E.A.C.E. has been a dynamic agent of change in an otherwise neglected community. Operation P.E.A.C.E began as an effort to improve the lives of the children in the Old Fourth Ward community. In addition to serving as a buffer between the neighborhood children and the negative forces at work in the community, the organization has evolved into the primary community resource for residents looking for solutions to their problems.
As the program’s web site notes,
Once the students arrive at the Center, they unwind before homework with a nutritious snack and supervised physical activities before settling down to begin their homework. Our staff assist with homework and are augmented with volunteers from the Atlanta University Center, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta who assist with mentoring and providing one-on-one tutoring and various skill-based activities.
Operation P.E.A.C.E. also operates a Summer Academy, also free to parents, offers academics, fun, food, and safety during the summer months. During the summer of 2014 UUCA volunteers taught art and science and assisted in a variety of other ways.
Operation P.E.A.C.E. is located at 386 Pine Street, in a building owned by the Atlanta Public Schools and leased to the Kindezi School, a charter school. Parking is available on the street. A good place to park is Merritts Street, which runs behind the school. Walk around to the front door, and identify youself as an Operation P.E.A.C.E. volunteer. The space that Operation P.E.A.C.E. has subleased is marked with a sign, to your right after you enter the school’s front door.
Our Partner Big Bethel Saturday School
Situated on Auburn Avenue to the west of Hope-Hill, the Big Bethel AME Saturday School is intended to “provide physical, emotional, spiritual, moral, and academic support to deprived, neglected, delinquent, abused and underserved children.”
UUCA members serve as volunteers and support the Saturday School in a variety of other ways.
Big Bethel Saturday School is located on Auburn Avenue, a few doors to the west of Big Bethel AME Church. A sign clearly identifies it. Parking is available in the large parking lot behind the church. The entrance to the parking lot is on John Wesley Dobbs. Volunteers park free, with a Big Bethel decal.
Sources for More Information on the Hope-Hill Neighborhood
Places to look for more information about the neighborhood include the following:
District2Atlanta on Facebook: City Councilman Kwanza Hall launched the “Year of Boulevard” campaign in 2012 to increase public safety and bring new resources to the Boulevard corridor. To receive e-mails about the ongoing “Year of Boulevard” campaign, email: LacyBarnes@AtlantaGa.Gov