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Q A Inner-city initiative has work left to do

Weed & Seed is a federal program to revive aging, inner-city areas. In Rock Hill, it encompasses five center-city neighborhoods where crime rates are among the highest in the city. Since the program began last April, criminal charges have gone up 50 percent.

Lonnie Harvey, chairman of the steering committee, gave an update on the program during a conversation last week with The Herald.

• What kind of difference has Weed & Seed made so far?

"The biggest difference so far is the level of crime that has been reduced. People are more aware of what services are available. There's still a long way to go. Weed & Seed is about empowering the people, and there's still a lot of people who don't understand.

There are a lot of people who don't know how the political process works. They are the ones who are truly underrepresented."

• What have been some of the disappointments so far?

"Personally, for me the biggest disappointment is the lack of involvement in the local churches. We've made numbers of appeals to the churches to become actively (involved). And they haven't. I don't think the churches have the relationships with the community they once had. There's a lot of folks that attend the churches that don't live in the community.

Even the largest churches, they are more interested in building community centers than stepping outside to help those around the church."

• Where is the Weed & Seed program headed from here?

"Now, we're going to start to put a lot more emphasis on the seed side. We need to get down crime, but we have to educate people. We've got to address some critical areas that are the primary causes of poverty. One is teenage pregnancy. The number of single-parent households. We've got to address the high dropout rate.

Those are the three legs of the stool we must address. There's a lot of work to do. I'm still optimistic about it.

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Weed & Seed organizer Lonnie Harvey

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