Editor’s note:

Neighborhood Advisory Council 11 (NAC 11) residents meet monthly to share concerns about the quality of life in downtown Frederick and seek solutions to common problems. On Oct. 22, the coordinators of NAC 11 submitted a letter to Mayor Michael O’Connor and the Board of Aldermen regarding the Frederick Community Action Agency. This is a modified version of the coordinators’ letter, which was reduced in length at the request of The Frederick News-Post.

Dear Mayor and Board of Aldermen:

We are writing to express our support of the mayor and board’s recent decision to bring new leadership to the Frederick Community Action Agency (FCAA). With the intention to take the agency in a new direction, we believe this can and must be an important first step toward reversing the years of decline in the quality of life in the south part of the historic district (the South End). It is the responsibility of the city and the FCAA to provide solutions for its clients that do not simultaneously increase crime and reduce the quality of life for residents, businesses, and visitors in the surrounding community. The city and FCAA’s anemic and often dismissive responses to the damage inflicted on nearby neighborhoods must stop.

The FCAA, under Mike Spurrier, has done much over the last 30 years to improve the lives of Frederick’s most vulnerable by providing a wide range of necessary services. These include basic shelter, food, medical treatment, home weatherization, addiction treatment, and mental health services. All of these are needed, critical, and important in our community. As citizens, we applaud the mission of this organization.

However, as services have been provided over the past few years, residents and business owners have watched as conditions around the FCAA have deteriorated. Every day, residents and business owners in this part of town are subjected to the negative and sometimes criminal conduct of some clients of the FCAA and those who prey on them. This occurs on the street, sidewalks, the creek, in the parks, and on residents’ own front porches. Residents and visitors are routinely forced to navigate large groups of people who are drunk or high and blocking the sidewalks. Residents and business owners are faced with daily episodes of drug dealing, discarded drug paraphernalia, used hypodermic needles, vomit, trash from the takeaway containers provided by the various service providers, personal threats and intimidation, urinating and defecating on the sidewalk and private property, assaults, domestic abuse, property damage, and violence.

The new direction must take into consideration the flaws of the current delivery system for the people that use them. Are we doing what’s best and compassionate for the entire community by leaving the FCAA in its current location? We regularly see people with disabilities and families struggling to reach the FCAA building due to the lack of parking. The recipients of services have to sacrifice their privacy by being forced to receive services on one of the most visible downtown intersections.

A more complete program would consider the current inadequacies. A model facility would provide opportunities to bathe and use toilet facilities, opportunities for recreation and participation in the organization’s functions, meaningful employment programs, a day shelter, and would be actively connecting people who are homeless with the various services they need to get back on their feet. Prevention should also be a key part of the program design to discourage repeat offenders by creating consequences for criminal behavior.

The renewed activism by South End community members will continue to focus on addressing the long-ignored quality-of-life issues that have been compounded by, if not created by, the city’s systematic shortsighted policies and leadership in the South End. We are hopeful that under new leadership, downtown residents, small-business owners, the FCAA, mayor’s office, Board of Aldermen, Frederick Police Department, state’s attorney’s office, and the city as a whole can work together to improve the quality of life for everyone in the area and come up with new approaches to delivering services. We hope to look to other cities and communities to identify and adapt successful approaches to effectively reduce homelessness and develop compassionate approaches for supporting those who suffer from substance use disorders and mental health issues.

Though the word community is in the FCAA’s name, the way in which these needed services have been delivered in the past few years has been anything but community-oriented. It is serving one population at the expense of others. We hope that there will indeed be a new direction.

Bruce Albaugh

Ricardo Bairan

Brad Hoffman

Eric Nicholson

Darcy Richards

Julia Schaeffer

Neighborhood Advisory Council 11 (NAC 11) coordinators

(23) comments

threecents

Gabe, I think you are missing the point of the LTE, which is that things have gotten worse lately and Mr. Spurrier did not want to address that. If that is the case, then the city was probably right to fire him. Hopefully, they have a plan going forward, and they will share it with us.

Burgessdr

Threecents. Exactly how is Spurrier responsible for people doing drugs and committing crimes? Are those who own the apartment buildings down the street responsible when their tenants do drugs or committing crimes? Is an employer responsible responsible for those who use drugs in the workplace or commit crimes at work? Maybe you should also blame the police and healthcare workers on the opioid epidemic. The problem is the City has fallen down on the job addressing the issues. The buck stops with the Mayor and BOA. They have approved the FCAA budget and programs.

Dwasserba

What I think of while reading this neighbor-letter (warning! anecdote) was how I rented in Sansom Village (Center City) 1970s Phila, a neighborhood trying to gentrify/maintain all around us, but we were the "before" tenement ambience. I had 7 same-age room mates, about 20 girls under age 22 in the building and a housemother. When a few of us sat on the front steps of our row home on a hot evening (no a/c), the neighbors called the cops, who herded us inside for an edifying sermon about prostitution. When we walked together and said hello, neighbors muttered, "get a job!" We gathered at Rittenhouse Square, and old ladies on benches gasped at our miniskirts, called us names, threatened to call the cops but thanks, we all already had boyfriends (which is the kind of humor I thought old ladies hated until I was one). I moved two streets distant, got a new job, walked 6 blocks to City Hall every day. I thought the animosity would end when I rented a room of my own in that unadvertised former hotel run by cloistered nuns. But some neighbors didn't believe they existed (look up "cloistered"), and our doorman Bob was visibly black and intimidating - his job was physically separating us from all the bad company we attracted in the world that clung to us as we struggled to enter the door. I remember feeling judged for sitting, standing and walking, and for not promising to avoid those in the future. I brought down a neighborhood that just wanted to improve. Today it is supergentrified. Take heart.

gary4books

There are many good reasons to provide services downtown where people can be served. The fix to these problems is to supervise and manage people and perhaps have some public "restrooms." I expect the problem can be managed with supervision and some police support. And no real reason to move where people can not be served.

StrengthofLiberty

"Dear Mr. Mayor and Alder- is it - alderpersons is, is that alright?" Please get rid of these filthy people. YOU have GOT to PROTECT OUR INVESTMENTS! Diversity, and community identity, along with the urban expression is ruining our quality of life. DARN IT DO SOMETHING! Can these peple be moved to where the statues are now? Out of site out of mind. Except of course at Christmas. Anyway: DARN IT! You were elected. Now fix this problem! DO IT. DO IT NOW! And PS: that hotel/conference centre is ideal for our city along the linear park. Let's have a drink to discuss it."

To which must be responded: Eat. Drink. Shop. Play. Stay. / Comer. Bebida. Tienda. Jugar. Permanecer. ¡Viva la identidad comunitaria unificada y la expresión urbana!

Burgessdr

The failure here is the current and previous mayors and BOA's failure to address the issues. Spurrier, who has helped disadvantaged, mentally ill, low-income, impoverished, and homeless individuals for 30+ years, is being used as a scapegoat by ineffective administrations that dont wear big boy pants. To solely blame the homeless and otherwise disadvantaged people on drugs and crime is ignorant and stereotyping. The National Coalition for the Homeless says "A common stereotype of the homeless population is that they are all alcoholics or drug users." The little homeless children that spend the night in the church next to us are not doing drugs and committing crimes. Crime and drug usage is done by criminals and drug users - some of those have homes and some do not. The FCAA provides services, it does not promote drug use and crime - actually the opposite.

Next thing, the mayor and BOA will be blaming doctors and hospitals for sick people.

Shemp

The FCAA was started in 1968 by Lord Nickens and Seaven Gordon as the Frederick Community Center. So it’s been there for over 51 years, long before gentrification started in downtown Frederick. By the way, intoxicated people leaving bars at 1:00 or 2:00 am also use drugs, have “one for road”, urinate when and where needed, etc. Downtown Frederick is full of bars, breweries, and distilleries and people wonder why younger people, people who are homeless, etc. want to hang-out downtown? Poor planning has created a mix of gentrified condominiums, bars, vape shops, tattoo parlors, breweries, and distilleries with more CBD dispensaries to come. Welcome to downtown.

Frayou

All about $$$

DickD

Good letter, but it would have been better with a recommendation. Like move the center out of downtown Frederick, pass laws against vagrancies, drinking alcohol on the streets, etc. There are already laws against indecent exposure and drugs.

Shemp

Vagrancy laws are unconstitutional.

gabrielshorn2013

I guess the N in NAC stands for NIMBY. That facility has been there longer than most of the whiners who signed this letter. The authors want to make these people "someone else's problem" by moving it somewhere else, forgetting that to others, the authors are "someone else, somewhere else".

sevenstones1000

Gabriel - I was just coming in to say that exact thing. NIMBY.

grisgris

So they should be ok with the threats, public defecation, drug use, drug dealing, and violence? How does that belong in any neighborhood?

Kindly give us an example of how you have had the same level of problems in your neighborhood and have looked the other way. Have you invited your neighborhood drug dealer to do his business from your front steps? Do you allow people to use the bathroom in plain sight on your front lawn? Please share.

gabrielshorn2013

Ummm...did you move into the neighborhood with the pre-existing homeless facility? As someone else noted, Lord Nickens started that facility over 50 years ago to assist the downtrodden in Frederick. Would you move next to the airport and whine about the noise, or next to a farm and whine about the smells? YOU moved into the neighborhood, they didn't move next to you. My situation is not relevant to the discussion, because I took the time to discover what was in my immediate and extended neighborhoods, the crime rate, and the Master Plan for what is in the short and long term plans for my neighborhood. I guess you didn't. As for the urination, defecation, alcohol and drug use, welcome to downtown Frederick City on any given weekend. It's been that way for over half a century.

Shemp

That’s when you call the police, wait nearby to identify the person, go to court if needed, etc., but don’t blame the health and human service agencies that are trying to help people (unless you need a scapegoat).

grisgris

Gabriel - So you're saying that the drug dealers have the right to continue their illegal activity because they've been doing it for a long time? Maybe the police should stop enforcing laws downtown because the people breaking them have been doing it for longer than our police chief has been in office. And the people living in the lower income area of downtown shouldn't expect a reasonable level of safety and quality of life because that's your idea of how downtown Frederick should be? Or do you just enjoy judging people from your ivory tower because it makes you feel good? I've lived downtown for a while and the drug issues have gotten significantly worse. The crime problem needs to be solved, not ignored because "the FCAA has been there a long time". The only place the "I was here first" argument is valid is on the playground.

gabrielshorn2013

Jeez grisgris, slippery slope much? That's not what I am saying at all, and you know it. Did you not check the neighborhood before you moved in? Where are the crime reports stating that it is getting worse? From what I have read, and what was published in this very paper, the crime stats have stayed the same or gone down. Gentrification has surrounded the people at that facility, and now you want to make them someone else's problem for your comfort. If you don't like what you see, call the police as Shemp says above. Point out the violator that pooped in your yard and have them arrested. Or move.

grisgris

From the article that you mentioned:

Crime data provided to The News-Post show that police have made 361 arrests this year around Carroll Creek and All Saints Street, as of July 30. In all of 2018, 272 arrests were made. That is a huge jump, which may indicate more crime or it may indicate stricter enforcement by police.

gdunn

None of these people have a front lawn. just sayin'

gdunn

Crime data provided to The News-Post show that police have made 361 arrests this year around Carroll Creek and All Saints Street, as of July 30. In all of 2018, 272 arrests were made. That is a huge jump, which may indicate more crime or it may indicate stricter enforcement by police.

-Only indicts police have been very responsive to complaint. Increased arrest as done nothing to correct the problem. The vast majority are for sleeping and drinking on the creek which leads to wasted limited police resources, no jail time or fine due to offenders not being able to pay or even prosecution by SAO. Only punishment is the 1.5 hour walk up 85 from the jail to go back to the creek and do the same thing.

MD1756

Gabriel, moving next to a farm and complaining about smells is actually not unreasionable if it is something like a factory farm. I used to think the way you do but then realized that some operations/operators are adversely impacting resources they don't own (air pollution, water pollution etc.). In Texas or Louisiana you could substitute petroleum refinery for farm. I used to think people who moved next to refineries should have known that pollutants were a problem but then I reconciled my property view rights with the idea that one needs to keep their pollution on their own property or else be subject to regulation. A little smell may be ok, but factory farms can relase air pollutants that are at harmful levels and thus adversely impact property owners of properties the farmers do not own. Do they have the right to do so or do the other proprty owners have the right to expect reasonable controls. I now fall on the side of reasonable controls. Factory farms and petroleum refiners should be aloowed to earn great profits while killing those who live on property near the facilities without the polluters either compensating the other property owners or better for everyone, clean up their pollution. The same logic may apply hear to counter your analogies.

gabrielshorn2013

I will concede the point to factory farms md1756. However, I was referring to people who move next to a working dairy farm, or really any farm. They love the view of someone else's property, and claim it for their own, as if it is owed in perpetuity. As anyone who has owned or lived near a farm, as I do, there is "spreading time" several times a year, which we are immune to, but the newbies vehemently complain about, "we love our new bucolic lifestyle, but we must really do something about these farmers." A non-sequitur. Smells from a farm will not hurt you. You will actually become accustomed. Noise pollution from the airport is the same way, up to a certain dB level. However, back to the topic, The homeless shelter is being scapegoated. As a poster said previously, is the drug use from the apartments up the street condemned with the same zeal? I haven't heard anything about razing them. How about the public urination from the bars? Blaming everyone at the facility because of the behavior of a few makes no sense. Are these people to be shooed away every time someone with money and a gripe moves into any neighborhood so the unfortunate cannot be seen? If they want to clean up the neighborhood, by all means go for it. That facility offers much more than just a place to flop, and has been a city resource for over 50 years. To expect the facility to move because of a few NIMBYs who want to gentrify the area is ludicrous.

KarlBickel

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