An Opportunity for Transformation in Ferguson

During the summer of 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed, black teenager suspected of theft was shot to death by a police officer in the suburban town of Ferguson, Missouri. In the days following his death, a wounded community took to the streets to protest violence against black lives. For months, the protests shed light on a topic that has plagued communities for decades and forced the nation to begin to address issues of race relations and police brutality.

For Urban Strategies, the event was a spark of change on a topic that desperately needed to be brought to the forefront of communities nationwide: the suburbanization of poverty. All of Urban Strategies’ work across the nation seeks to create change on the notion that people must always be first. Addressing the challenges of implanting large numbers of heavily subsidized housing units in moderate- to low-income communities, such was the case in Ferguson, cannot begin without focusing on the core needs of its people.

Urban Strategies recognized that change at this level cannot happen through policy alone; it will require thoughtful research and a seismic shift in the community.

“Within days of the death of Michael Brown, we recognized that Southeast Ferguson was a hot-bed of subsidized—sometimes deeply subsidized—housing with very little service support,” said Sandra M. Moore. “They had desperate needs and we were determined to look into how to best support them.”

With the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Urban Strategies conducted an in-depth community survey of residents to address the shortcomings of opportunities for residents of Ferguson. Urban Strategies led a core team that included the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities (NIMC) spending four months listening in order to make recommendations for change.