The Washington Urban League's move from downtown offices to the heart of one of the capital's most troubled inner-city neighborhoods symbolizes the agency's shift to a program of increased services for low-in-come minorities and a stronger role in seeking change to benefit them, according to League leaders.
Nearly 200 District and community leaders were on hand last week as the League dedicated its first agency-owned headquarters at 3501 14th St. NW. The move is part of the community service group's new "management by objectives" program designed by Dorothy J. Sharpe associated director for programs.
"It's a systematic planning and delivery of services approach," said Sharpe. "The concept grew out of practices used by the private sector." Through quality planning and assessment the agency will be able to provide immediate and long-range services to its constituents, she said.
League management objectives stem from their 1976 Speak Out for Survival (SOS) survey. About 400 league volunteers talked with members of 1,000 low-income black and Latino District households, who were asked to identify their problems and rank them according to importance.
Based on their findings, the League began to seek funding for new programs and revamped existing programs to reflect the expressed need of the community. The move to 14th Street was made to make the League and its program more accessible to its constituents, said John Jacobs, executive director.
The new headquarters, a three-story brick structure, is the former residence and mortuary of the Danzansky family. The property was acquired earlier this year with the aid of long-time league supporter. Joseph P. Danzansky, board chairman of Giant Food Inc.
City Council chairman Sterling Tucker. Urban League executive secretary from 1950 to 1971, called the agency's acquisition of the property another aspect of its "unique ability to capture the leadership and character of people across the city to bring about social change."
League president John Larsen cited the agency's new direction as political and social advocate for the city's poor.
"Every notice that comes out of City Council we look at as it relates to SOS then we go down and advocate in testimony," said Jacobs. "We measure inequities and call upon regulatory bodies to enforce services."
Jacobs said the League will rely more heavily on legal suits and political activities to advance their causes adding. "We haven't ruled out any strategy."
The League's 1976-77 annual report indicated that this approach is already being emphasized. Public testimony was presented by the League on federal and local issues concerning employment, public safety, affirmative action and education.
League-instituted employment programs for youth, female heads of households and the unemployed provided 350 people with jobs and trainee positions.
A five-year experiment in alternative education was completed by the League's street academy education centers for dropouts and absorbed into the District's public school system. This year the academies graduated 155 students. Follow-up on previous graduates showed 42 employed full time, 37 in college seven in other post-secondary education and five in the Armed Forces. About 300 others are still in school. A youth development center was also proposed in response to a Navy Recruitment Command appeal to improve its image with minority youth.
The League's Youth Arbitration Bureau acted on citizens' appeals for public safety by aiding families and troubled youth in crises. Of 280 cases involving 900 youthful offenders handled by the League since February 1976, only five have returned to the courts.
Senior citizens were provided with social and recreational outlets through the agency's Senior Neighbors and Companions Clubs (SNACC Twenty-seven clubs, averaging more than 500 visitors daily, provided seniors with 116,645 hot meals, sewing arts and crafts workshops, educational seminars, social and religious get-togethers.