Special services district near Temple expands programming

The district partnered with several organizations to reduce trash during “move-in” and “move-out.”

Malik Williams, team leader of One Day At A Time, oversees his team members as they clean the sidewalks on 18th Street between Dauphin and Susquehanna Streets on Nov. 1. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The North Central Special Services District, a joint community-university board created to improve the quality of life for residents near Main Campus, has expanded its trash and security services in the area, officials said, but has yet to add any new programs.

The district, which was founded in April, is composed of five community members and four university employees. It received $500,000 from Temple to fund its first year of operation. 

Since its formation, the district’s board, which is bounded by Broad, 18th, Dauphin and Oxford streets, has focused on increasing off-campus patrols of Allied Universal and improving the efforts of One Day at a Time, a local substance abuse recovery organization, said Tara Miller, the district’s executive director.

Community residents and activists criticized the project after its announcement, alleging the university was using the district to bolster support for its proposed on-campus football stadium.

Since its announcement, the district has not held a public meeting, Miller said.

“I think it would be safe to say we are still learning,” Miller said. 

ODAAT cleans streets four days a week. The nonprofit began working with Temple in fall 2018 before expanding its patrol to the district’s boundaries in April.

Temple, the special services district, Philadelphia’s streets department and JDog Junk Removal and Hauling, a veteran-owned trash removal organization, partnered to clean trash during the “move-out” and “move-in” periods at the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the fall semester, the district’s largest project so far, Miller added.

“This was the first time you had this many people working together to try to mitigate the trash problems,” she said.

Though the Special Services District is funded by Temple now, the board is working with landlords in the area to fundraise, Miller said.

“I can’t give you a dollar amount or a percentage amount, but we have begun having those conversations with the landlords trying to figure out a good fundraising strategy so that this Special Services District will eventually be fully independent,” she added.

The board has not created subcommittees that can be joined by community members who are not a part of the board, Miller said. They are planning a meeting between the Dean of Students Office, residents and student block captains, who are fellows paid by Temple to organize block cleanups in their area, in November.

Joan Briley, the district’s president, has seen some improvement in the community’s trash issue, like students getting involved with the community and the block they live on, she said. 

“It’s a work in progress, it’s gonna take time, you can’t do it overnight,” said Briley, who lives on Norris Street near 15th. “If we could do it overnight it would be great. There’s gonna be some kinks, there’s gonna be some ups and downs, but we all just have to work together to get it done.”

“We are trying to keep the neighborhood intact, trying to keep the neighborhood clean, not just for students but for elderly neighbors,” Briley added.

The board would like to broaden the district’s mission to neighborhood beautification in general, Miller said, “so it’s not just cleaning up trash.” 

Addressing vacant lots, providing information to residents about local workforce development and education programs as well as community events are all initiatives Miller could foresee the district undertaking, she said.

Cassandra Knight, who lives on Carlisle Street near Norris, said she has not noticed a measurable decrease in the amount of trash in the neighborhood. 

“What I would like to see is a better handle on the trash … Our block has a lot of rats on the block because of all the trash that’s there now,” Knight added. “What I want to see them do is monitor this trash, monitor the parties.”

Debbie Roe, who lives on Diamond Street near 17th, said that she has seen ODAAT workers out cleaning the block, but wishes they would come more often, or that there was another day for trash pickup in the area. 

“We used to have trash pickup twice a week, and then we also used to have the trucks come in every so often with the water and the big bristles and stuff, come down and sweep and wash out the whole street,” said Roe, who has lived in the area for over 20 years. “Maybe that’s something Temple can’t capitalize on.”

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