More than 50 government, business and social service leaders met last weekend in Fairfax County to discuss the needs of minority and low-income county residents.
The forum, sponsored by the Northern Virginia branch of the Washington Urban League and the Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP, focused on five areas housing, education, employment, social services and representation in local government.
During workshops conducted in these areas, the participants made the following recommendations.
Housing - Counseling programs should be developed to educate individuals on the legalities and financial considerations of housing. Liaisons should work with savings and loan institutions to find loans for minorities. Local government should provide developers with incentives to develop low and moderate-income housing. There should be more cooperation between county agencies and realtors in finding housing for the poor.
Education - Minority students should be pushed toward more involvement in extra-curricular activities. There should be more input from the community involving education, which might be accomplished by the schools through community outreach programs.
Employment - An intra-agency newsletter concerning employment opportunities should be started between social services agencies. Large companies moving into the area, such as Mobil and AT&T, should be encouraged to hire and train minority workers.
Social Services - The needs and priorities of minority residents should be assessed. There should be coordinated, comprehensive planning on the county, state and local levels. Citizens attendance at county board and commission meetings should be encouraged.
Government - A master list of qualified minority residents who would like to serve on county boards and commissions should be compiled, and social service agencies should push to have those people appointed. Board and commission vacancies should be advertised widely, and the county government should compile and distribute a master list of all board and commission members, listing the dates their terms expire.
Angella Current, director of the Northern Virginia branch of the Washington Urban League, said the league would use the recommendations to formulate future programs. Within a few months, she said, the recommendations will be printed and sent to all elected Fairfax County officials and social services agencies in the county.
The Rev. Ulysses Martin, representing the Saunders B. Moon Community Action Agency, said unemployed minorities must be trained to a far greater extend than they are now.
"What is available now is enough to stimulate their hopes and desires . . . but not enough to fit them into the employment structure," Martin said. "The end result is disillusionment and hope deferred."
"Let's not become complacent in the job that we've been doing . . . lets not become satisfied," Herman Howard, Area I superintendent of Fairfax County Schools, urged the audience at Groveton High School.
Only with hard work, joined with "a sense of cooperation . . . a sense of mutual dedication, a sense of mutual concern." Howard stressed, will conditions in the county improve for minority and low-income residents.
And only by first thoroughly researching the problems. "I think that it will start with a group like this that says, "We've got to develop a plan," he said.