We are pleased to share the following feature in The Sanford Herald regarding the latest BIC meeting in Sanford, NC. We hope you will enjoy!
BIC project making progress in Sanford
By Hailey Hall
May 3, 2016
SANFORD — City and county officials are hoping to build a better relationship with the Hispanic community, starting with the completion of the Sanford Building Integrated Communities project.
At the Sanford Area Growth Alliance’s monthly public policy meeting Monday at the Flame Steakhouse, Hannah Gill, director of the Latino Migration Project, and Jessica White, BIC researcher and program coordinator, at UNC-Chapel Hill spoke about the project.
Gill said the BIC project was designed to help local governments and communities better understand their immigrant and refugee residents.
“BIC is a community planning process that helps N.C. local governments successfully engage with immigrant and refugee populations in order to do four main things,” she said. “One is engage communication, improve relationships, promote economic development and educational attainment, and increase access to leadership opportunities.”
White added that working with cities like Sanford helped communities implement multiple strategies to successfully engage with immigrants and refugees.
“As a result of working with local governments like the City of Sanford and Lee County, as well as diverse community stakeholders in the community, [they] have the tools to generate locally relevant strategies that strengthen immigrant/civic engagement, linguistic achievements and economic and educational attainment,” she said.
In 2014, the City of Sanford applied for the grant in order to implement strategies on engaging with Sanford’s immigrant Hispanic community. Gill described Sanford’s application as “exemplary” and helped the city move forward with the project.
Once the application was accepted, BIC and Sanford completed a year-long assessment of the community. The first step was establishing a Sanford/BIC planning committee, comprised of government staff, local organizations and other Hispanic residents. The committee completed the assessment based on 300 surveys filled out by local foreign-born residents and U.S.-born children of immigrants, as well as resident discussion groups to determine their needs.
There were three areas with which residents were most concerned, according to the assessment: communication between local government and Hispanic communities, police relationships/identification and transportation. Three action planning subcommittees were created to review the suggestions and recommendations from the assessment report and strategy session. Gill said the transportation committee has done a lot to tackle their issue.
“The transportation committee, in particular, has made rapid progress in its proposals and has already begun to implement some major changes to local county transportation,” she said. “We think that these changes are of particular interest to Sanford and Lee County’s local business[es] due to their potential impact on resident mobility, as well as access to employment and educational opportunities, consumer purchasing and the overall economy.”
As a part of the presentation, Zaida Cruz, an afternoon dispatcher, and Sidney Morgan, transportation coordinator, from the County of Lee Transit System spoke about ongoing and upcoming improvements to public transportation.
Cruz and Morgan found that COLTS routes weren’t reaching the areas where most Hispanics live. Morgan said COLTS was able to find some holes in its schedule to go and accommodate three big Hispanic areas that weren’t previously reached.
“We started today at 8:30 a.m. and returned them at 11 a.m., and have another route that picks up at 1 p.m. and returns at 4:30, for $2 each time they get on the bus,” he said. “Mobility should be a human right and we’re glad to meet people’s needs.”
The project’s next step is the evaluation plan, in which the implementations are assessed based on their success in the community.
In the meantime, the community is taking its own steps to integrate residents. El Refugio/The Refuge is not only a part of the BIC project, but is holding a Festival Latino to “Get to Know Neighbors, Celebrate Cultures” on Saturday. The festival will be held from 2-5 p.m. at the Jonesboro United Methodist Church on 407 W Main St., Sanford.
Deb Taylor, a member of the El Refugio/The Refuge coordinating committee, said the third annual festival’s real focus is cross-cultural relationships.
“When you meet face-to-face, people are likely to make connections,” she said. “We all live in Lee County and we’re stronger when we live, work and play together. We feel like everybody should be treated with respect and dignity and the way to do that is to get to know each other.”
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said integrating and engaging with the Latino residents is something the city and county need to do.
“With 20 percent of our population and half of them born here, they’re not going to leave,” he said. “And as mayor, I want my business community to understand that this is a vested thing for all of us and is something that no matter your feelings on immigrants or whatever, this is something that we need to, as a community, embrace. Because we’re only going to be as strong in our community as our weakest segment. And so therefore, you have two choices, you can either ignore this segment and hope it goes away, which it won’t, or you can get involved and tune in and make this segment a big piece of our fabric and help them become a better part of the community. And then we’ll all grow together.”