Port City United outlines impacts of community efforts

Port City United brought a presentation to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 19.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 1:13 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Port City United brought a presentation to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 19.

Organizers discussed multiple programs that have been launched with a focus on getting resources to people in need and de-escalating community conflicts that could otherwise become violent.

PCU’s “Bright Lights Peaceful Nights” initiative is aimed at fixing or adding lighting to keep neighborhoods better lit at night. They’ve installed or repaired lights so far on N 31st St, Princess Place Dr, Hurst St and N 30th St.

PCU Connect is a 24/7 call center to help connect people with resources available locally. They’ve received over 1,000 calls so far. Of the about 800 counted for the presentation in the meeting, 43% were for employment assistance, 29% for financial assistance and 18% for housing assistance. Food and education assistance accounted for 1% of calls, and calls on other topics comprise the last 9%.

PCU was also able to help 154 families apply for emergency rental assistance after they were displaced due to mold issues, and 55% were successfully referred.

Preventing violence through de-escalation

Their Mediation and Outreach Team is lead by supervisor Steven Barnett with a team of seven and is based on the Cure Violence Global model. Barnett’s team is required to be reliable and aware of the people at risk in the community. At the meeting, Barnett explained a time where he and his team showed up for outreach in Creekwood; nobody ended up hurt, but the people they were looking to help were frightened when they pulled down the window of their car.

“In their natural minds, growing up in the environment they grew up in, it looks like a drive-by is getting ready to occur. That moment, my team and I, you know, we were kinda taken aback like ‘wow, you know, this is serious,’” said Barnett at the meeting. “And now when we go into certain communities, we’re referred to as the peacekeepers, which isn’t a bad thing. I felt like the other kids who gave us that label were mocking us at first, but I know now, man, in a time of need, they’re gonna call us.”

Their response is different depending on the severity of the incident. If there’s no injury they do mild outreach, handing out flyers and making sure people know about their services. If there is an injury caused by an injury, they go out into the community and speak to the major players in the incident and try to de-escalate things. There hasn’t been a shooting with a death during their hours in the summer, but their policy in this case is to reach out to the family, make sure they can access mental health resources and help out where they can.

They’ve done 38 mediations with individuals and 8 group mediations since the team’s inception on May 23. PCU has distributed 356 flyers/public information materials, hosted seven events and attended 12 others.

Helping students and families be healthy and successful

Jarrett Gattison of Port City United coordinated a partnership with Communities in Schools, Leading Into New Communities and Voyage to place 22 community resource coordinators in seven schools in the county: Gregory, Snipes, Forest Hills and Freeman elementary schools, DC Virgo and Williston middle schools and New Hanover High School.

The coordinators focus on increasing academic success, promoting life skills and making sure that students and families are getting the supplies they need. Currently the coordinators are managing cases for 192 students, and they expect for more students to be added as applications are completed. Their End of Grade Test Support program included over 700 students from May to June of 2022.