Ensuring Accountability and Sustainability: Using Coalition Building, Capacity Building, and Community Leadership to Address Environmental Health Hazards in the South Atlanta For the Environment (SAFE) Project.  

 

South Atlanta For the Environment (SAFE) is a two year project funded through the U.S. EPA’s Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE) program. ECO-Action, a community-based organization, directs the program as a community based approach to addressing environmental health hazards in Neighborhood Planning Unit V (NPU-V).  Demographically, NPU-V has lower SES, higher minority rates, and lower education attainment levels than Atlanta as a whole.  It also faces disproportionately high levels of industrial related contaminants, air pollution, and a blighted housing stock, among other concerns. 

 

The goals of this project are to:

a.       form a sustainable coalition consisting of community members, community based organizations, local businesses, and government agencies;

b.      identify and prioritize environmental health hazards in a heavily blighted community in south Atlanta;

c.       disseminate results to the community and share lessons learned with other communities in Atlanta; and

d.      develop a strategic plan to address identified environmental health concerns.

 

The overarching goal of SAFE is to ensure sustainability of efforts by engaging the community and promoting community empowerment.  This is accomplished in part by getting community members involved in the coalition, recruiting 30 community members to complete the Leadership Training Institute, and performing extensive community outreach. 

 

Engaging the community in the entire process helps to ensure a commitment to the outcomes, and developing leadership skills among community members gives them the necessary tools to sustain efforts after the grant period has ended.  Because this grant only covers the planning phases, sustainability is vitally important.  The SAFE coalition is committed to the sustainability of this project and therefore will search for diversified funding to implement the strategic environmental risk reduction plan that will begin to alleviate some of the environmental health burdens the residents of NPU-V face.  This process will also serve as a model for similar communities around Metro-Atlanta.