Pubdate: Sun, 18 Mar 2001
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2001 The Decatur Daily
Contact:  201 1st Ave. SE, Decatur, Ala. 35609
Fax: (256) 340-2411
Author: Paul Huggins


Police Say They're Prepared For Fund Cut

Decatur Housing Authority could lose $175,000 or more in federal assistance 
to keep drugs out of its neighborhoods, but police say they're prepared for 
the shortfall.

President Bush proposed cutting an estimated $1.3 billion in 2002 from 
Department of Housing and Urban Development programs.

That includes scrapping the Public Housing Drug Elimination Program, which 
steered $2.29 million to Decatur since the president's father started the 
program in 1989.

"This could hurt us," said Bob Neill, DHA director. "I feel that the Drug 
Elimination Program has definitely made our neighborhoods safer by having 
the presence of the (Decatur police) Street Hawks and providing activities 
for the children."

Before the program, several public housing units, particularly Sterrs 
Homes, had chronic problems with drug dealers. Some apartments became crack 
cocaine houses.

"I'm afraid that if they eliminate the funds, we could possibly have the 
same thing occur again," Neill said.

The Bush administration wants to eliminate the program because it thinks 
the program is failing and it's time to try something else.

The president supports replacing some of these programs with faith-based 
programs and proposes HUD be at the forefront of the change.

Drug-Elimination Dollars

DHA received its first drug-elimination dollars in 1990. Most of the local 
money went to the Police Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Morgan 

Decatur police used the money to start the Street Hawks, which consists of 
five officers and one sergeant assigned to do extra patrols of public 
housing neighborhoods.

The money helps buy equipment, including vehicles, and supplement payrolls.

Lt. John Bradford, public information officer, said the Street Hawks was 
one of the best programs the department implemented, but it's not in 
jeopardy if the Drug Elimination Program stops. The department prepares its 
budget as if there were no grant, he said.

"These type of grants, it's not sound to depend on them because you never 
know from one year to the next if you're going to get it.

"We do not foresee it having an adverse affect as far as laying off 
officers or cutting back on programs," he said.

The authority received $175,000 in 2000. Of that, $75,000 went to Decatur 
police, $95,000 went to Boys and Girls Club and $5,000 to the Decatur Board 
of Education and DHA youth sports programs.

"It's a big 'if' if it gets passed," Mike Anderson, director of the Boys 
and Girls Club, said of the president's budget. "I think it's going to 
receive a lot of opposition on the Senate side. But it would affect us 

Boys And Girls Club

The Boys and Girls Club used the money to open two clubs on Beech Street 
Southeast and Sixth Street Northwest.

DHA provides the facilities and the club furnishes the staff.

Whether some club activities would end if the federal funds stop, Anderson 
said it's too early to tell.

"It's still quite a ways down the road. Right now, I couldn't speak on what 
my board might do. We deal heavily with grants, and I know in the past when 
something like this has occurred, my board has stepped up and said we're 
going to continue service to the kids," he said.

Neill said three professional organizations -- the National Association of 
Housing and Redevelopment Officials, National Public Housing Directors 
Association and the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities -- will 
lobby Congress and the president to prevent any cuts to the program.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager