by Rosemary Reeves
Suppose you’re an officer of a community based group that wants to try the Section 8 Anti-Blight Reward System. You’ve prepared a sample application form for Section 8 residents to fill out when applying for rewards, as well as a sample registration card, welcome letter and Notification of Complaint. Setting up a hotline phone number will come later on. First, and most importantly, you’ve got to get area businesses involved.
Before you approach individual business owners and/or the local Chamber of Commerce, try to think like a business person. Pretend you own a grocery store. Why should you give away groceries every month to a Section 8 Anti-Blight Reward Program? What’s in it for you? You’re in business to make money, not give stuff away. You’d be highly skeptical of anything that might affect your bottom line, especially since business has dropped off in recent years. You’re interested in things that will have a positive impact on sales and keep customers coming back. What if someone told you that one of the reasons business has dropped off is that the neighborhood is in decline?
As an officer of the community group, point out to the business owner how there is litter and graffiti on the street where his or her business is located and all the nearby streets. Customers used to be able to walk to the store in clean and pleasant surroundings and those who drove had no worries about parking their car in the neighborhood. Now, customers may be shopping somewhere else. There is a troublesome Section 8 rental building down the block and while most of the tenants are good people, some are hurting business by playing loud music, hanging outside and leaving empty soda cans and food wrappers on the ground. Emphasize that if things keep up this way, business will continue to suffer. This lets the business owner know that you understand his or her problems in running the store and that you’re here to help.
If the neighborhood happens to be in good shape at this time but is expecting an influx of Section 8 tenants from a recently demolished housing project, for instance, then use a similar pitch but with a different neighborhood as an example. You might say, “That is what happened downtown and we are trying to prevent that from happening here.”
Stress these points:
Have some numbers ready. Suppose by now you’ve gotten the business owner’s interest. He will want to know how many items he will have to give away each month if he is to join the Section 8 Anti-Blight Rewards program.
465 Section 8 families
Round up to 500
You will need 500 care packages a month or 125 per week
Plan a variety of care packages to best utilize your neighborhood’s resources (but no more than five types of packages). When Section 8 tenants sign up for the program, they should be able to choose what kind of package they prefer each month, based on availability. This will make them even more motivated.
Look around your neighborhood. What resources does it have? What kinds of businesses are there and how many of each kind? Take inventory or ask you local Chamber of Commerce. How many restaurants are there? How many grocery stores? Make a list.
Say you have decided on five types of care packages. You need 125 all together. That means per week you need:
25 Food Care Packages
25 Health and Personal Care Packages
25 Baby Care Packages
25 Multi-Purpose Care Packages
25 Transportation Packages
Next, decide what items should go in each package and which stores can provide those items. In most city neighborhoods, there are multiple outlets for food, such as:
25 food care packages divided by five = 5. Each food outlet should contribute enough food to fill 5 care packages per week.
Those are some simple calculations you can do. After you’ve informed the business owner that he would only have to fill five care packages per week to help his business win against the deleterious effects of blight, you want to reinforce that positive message. Provide the business person with a copies of the sample forms you’ve created and highlights of the plan. After you are gone, the business owner will be able to look at the information again. When he begins to worry once more about how business is dropping off, he may decide to join the program, so make sure you include your contact information.
This concludes the Section 8 Blight: The Cure Series
The Basics of Setting Up a Section 8 Anti-blight Reward System