U.S. Mayor Article

Miami-Dade's Neighborhood Resource Team Delivers Full Range of Family, Community Services Team Includes Police, Housing, Health, Homeless, Other Public and Private Agencies

March 19, 2001

In West Perrine, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in metropolitan Miami, about 9,000 residents occupy a mix of single family homes and public and private apartment complexes. For years, the 16-block, low income area had been plagued with high rates of crime, unemployment, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and health problems.

In 1989, a respected West Perrine businessman and community activist was murdered by local drug dealers. While this was just one of a series of crimes which reflected the extent to which the neighborhood had slipped out of control, it became a defining event for residents: They had had enough and were ready to take back their community. To begin this process, 27 local pastors banded together, recruited other community advocates, and gained the support of the Miami-Dade Police Department. They started with weekly marches through the neighborhood and formed an interagency task force of state, county and private agencies and citizen activists to identify and then respond to the problems of the community. Progress was slow until February 1992 when then-Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno encouraged the establishment of a multi-agency resource team to be based in West Perrine. The Police Department's Cutler Ridge District (which includes West Perrine), the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, and the local HUD office formed this team, with space for a base of operations provided in Perrine Gardens, one of the area's most troubled public housing developments.

A little more than four months into its task, the new Neighborhood Resource Team (NRT) fell victim to Hurricane Andrew, a storm which devastated South Florida and rendered Perrine Gardens virtually uninhabitable. A temporary NRT office was quickly established to assist tenants forced to relocate until repairs to Perrine Gardens were completed late in 1993. In the period following the hurricane the team expanded its services to another public housing project where residents needed emergency help.

Initially, the NRT consisted of four members: a police officer, a housing representative, a public health nurse and a State social worker. A fifth member — a social worker from the Metro-Dade Department of Youth and Family Services — joined the team in its second year. Team members were experienced professionals knowledgeable about the resources of their agencies; they enjoyed access to the top officials of the participating agencies who were committed to helping them cut red tape and utilize whatever agency resources were needed to help the neighborhood's families. For team members, it was more than just a job: They worked in West Perrine, and they lived there. The NRT's police officer — a respected veteran of the Department — was the original team coordinator, and continues to serve in that capacity.

The NRT uses a two-part intervention strategy:

  • Family-centered intervention includes 1) family assessments conducted by the entire team in the residents' homes; 2) immediate response to emergency needs identified during the assessment process; and 3) monitoring and follow-up of cases to verify that needs have been met and referrals have been completed.
  • Community-wide intervention includes 1) a public safety initiative grounded in community-oriented policing principles of resident involvement and NRT visibility; 2) efforts to change public perception of the neighborhood in order to reduce fear of crime; and 3) the channeling of tenants' energies into maintenance, clean-up efforts, and other improvement activities.

As a partner in the NRT's efforts from the start, the West Perrine Community Development Corporation has played a major role in the creation and improvement of housing, health care, neighborhood infrastructure, transportation, legal services, youth programs, senior programs, employment programs and a variety of others.

Over the years the NRT has expanded to five offices in order to bring services closer to targeted neighborhoods. After several years of operation, the NRT's coordinator is relying increasingly on "Links" people — community residents who identify family problems and needs and work with partner agencies to arrange for services.

The number of partnership agencies has grown dramatically since the start of the NRT. In addition to the four lead agencies — the Police Department, the County Department of Health, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Metro-Dade Housing Agency — the 43 current Community Partners include entities as diverse as the Dade County Department of Solid Waste; the South Dade Homeless Assistance Center; the Perrine-Cutler Ridge Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club; and 15 area schools.

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas commends the Police Department's local, state, federal and private partners for making the Neighborhood Resource Team successful. "The NRT plays a critical and comprehensive role in one of Miami-Dade County's most important and historic communities," says Mayor Penelas. "It's wide range of activities, from family services to health care to job placement, has proved critical in Perrine's recovery from Hurricane Andrew."

Information on the Neighborhood Resource Team is available from Sergeant Jeff Lampert at 305-234-4904.

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