Community Development:

Comprehensive Approaches Address Multiple Needs but Are Challenging to Implement

RCED/HEHS-95-69: Published: Feb 8, 1995. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the multifaceted approaches that community-based nonprofit organizations in Boston, Detroit, Pasadena, and the District of Columbia have taken to improve conditions in their distressed urban neighborhoods, focusing on the: (1) reasons development experts and practitioners advocate a comprehensive approach; (2) challenges community organizations will face implementing a comprehensive approach; and (3) difficulties the federal government may have in supporting comprehensive approaches.

GAO found that: (1) community development experts advocate a comprehensive approach to address the complex and interrelated problems of distressed neighborhoods; (2) practitioners in the four locations reviewed believe that a comprehensive approach is feasible because community organizations and supporting networks are already present; (3) conditions in distressed neighborhoods cannot be quickly reversed and evaluating the results of community outreach efforts will be difficult because these efforts are not easily quantifiable; (4) community-based nonprofit organizations must overcome community skepticism, inadequate resident participation, a complex funding system, and the difficulties in managing a diverse set of concurrent housing, economic development, and social service programs to improve conditions in their neighborhoods; (5) organization leaders believe that to sustain their efforts they need to concentrate on building residents' support, gain access to multiple funding sources, and develop an experienced staff; (6) federal departments and agencies have not coordinated their efforts to assist distressed communities because they have separate missions and concerns about losing control over their resources; and (7) recent federal initiatives to consolidate programs could help the federal government become more supportive of comprehensive community development efforts.

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