top of page
  • Brady Hummel

This is Community S1 Ep1: "A Tale of Two Cities" Script

[This script was for Purpose Built Communities' narrative podcast series, This is Community. You can listen to the series here.]


Concentrated poverty and neighborhoods of concentrated poverty are like living on a downward escalator. That even in spite of your best efforts, the general momentum of the community you're in and everyone in it is moving you towards a predictable outcome. One researcher put it this way: if you are particularly a Black boy in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty, the likelihood of you graduating from high school, going to college, landing a great job, and starting a healthy family are the statistical equivalent of you climbing up an escalator in the wrong direction for 12 years.

[moody music fade-in]


The data is clear, the neighborhood where you grow up shapes who you become. It determines the life outcomes available to you. It limits how high you can reach. The starting line just isn't the same for everyone.


I'll often say when you meet somebody who comes from a rough background like that, and they made it out and they're just great, it's easy to think well, the rest of them just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, like he or she did. But she's an anomaly, statistically speaking, or he's a little bit of a miracle.


That's Eddy Moratin.


I'm Executive Director of LIFT Orlando, and we're members of the Purpose Built Communities.


Eddie knows all too well how difficult it is to climb that downward escalator. He grew up in poverty. His family relied on welfare just to get by.


It might have felt unfair to not have certain things or be able to do certain things. But I never thought that there were larger systems at play that kept and held back so many large swaths of our society from all the opportunities and blessings that are more readily available to many American families.


Eddie realizes that he is that statistical anomaly, that miracle. But he's dedicated himself to working to make sure that it's not as difficult for others to follow in his footsteps, to access the opportunities to achieve that he enjoyed, to not need to be a miracle to live the American Dream.


And the vision for us is to, by reintegrating the neighborhood economically over time, that in the next 10 to 20 years, we find ourselves with people growing up there that, even though maybe they might have started out with meager means, this neighborhood, our vision is, would be the kind of neighborhood where children grow up with hope, the kind of hope that opportunity and education access gives you, but also return with joy, that when they have resources to consider living anywhere they want, they could not think of a better place to raise your own family than the neighborhood where they grew up.

[moody music fade-out]


Growing up, Eddie saw for himself that history and economics mean more than individual effort. Racial segregation and poverty are concentrated in different neighborhoods because of government policies and private sector investments. These are geographic pockets where median household income and home values are lower, and unemployment and crime are higher than the national average.

For generations, owning a home has been one of the best ways to build wealth and financial security. But if you're not able to get an affordable mortgage, or are charged higher rents because of the color of your skin, you're excluded from that opportunity to build your financial foundation.

Throughout America's history, banks have avoided investing or making loans in predominantly Black or Brown neighborhoods. These segregation-based housing policies have shaped and divided cities into the "haves and the "have-nots."

Here's David Edwards, CEO of Purpose Built Communities.


People don't realize: we have neighbors in this country where they haven't been building permits pulled in 20 years. These are places that have had zero investment.


And this isn't just urban versus rural, or comparing one city with another. It's even smaller than that: a neighborhood on one side of a highway compared with the neighborhood on the other side. Right next to each other. You can live in the same city as someone less than a mile away from them, and live in totally different realities. A tale of two cities.

[theme music fade-in]

Welcome to This is Community, a podcast series by Purpose Built Communities.


Purpose Built Communities is a nonprofit pro bono consultancy. We're really a one trick pony. What we know how to do is help local leaders create great healthy neighborhoods that include broad, deep, durable pathways out of poverty for low income families.


Carol Naughton is the President of Purpose Built Communities.


And so our model is really quite clear. Now, clear doesn't mean easy to implement, necessarily, but it's pretty straightforward. First, it's a deep dive into a neighborhood. This is not a city wide or county wide or regional approach, but it is about a neighborhood. And within that neighborhood, there are three key strategies that are implemented, ideally simultaneously, over about a 10-year period. The first one is to create high quality mixed income housing, housing that will serve people across a broad range of incomes without distinguishing based on income. So that's a really important concept. One of the advantages of mixed income housing is that it will attract other investment to the community, like neighborhood-serving grocery stores, and retail and all those kinds of neighborhood-serving institutions that everybody wants in their community.

So the second piece is around creating a cradle through college education pipeline, with an idea of starting with center-based early learning care that supports children from six weeks all the way until they graduate from high school with a plan for post-secondary education to get them ready to be successful in their life.

The third piece is around community health and wellness. And that's really thinking about all the kinds of quality-of-life infrastructure, which is really all the things that you want in your neighborhood, if you're going to want to live there and make a stand.

But the secret sauce of our model is really about having a community quarterback organization. The community quarterback is almost always a newly-created nonprofit organization, who's not necessarily in the service delivery business, but is in the business of helping to convene all these implementation partners, help create these public-private partnerships across housing and education and health and wellness. And then helps make sure that the community's vision is in fact implemented through those micro partnerships. So the community quarterback, I think, may be the most important innovation that Purpose Built Communities has brought to the community development arena.


This is Episode One, "A Tale of Two Cities." In this episode, we'll see how poverty and place are inextricably connected. We'll see how history and policy segregated poverty in neighborhoods in Orlando, Florida, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

[theme music fade-out]

Eddy Moratin, the statistical anomaly, saw the stark inequality of intergenerational poverty in 2012, when Orlando announced it was investing $210 million in the reconstruction of Camping World Stadium. Tom Sittema, a businessman who would become Board Chair of LIFT Orlando - a nonprofit comprised of business leaders in Orlando partnered with residents to help transform the community - he wanted to see the progress on the stadium project. Driving through the surrounding neighborhoods, he was alarmed at what he saw.


There were people living in third world conditions, less than a mile from his office downtown, which he could still see in his rearview mirror. And when he found himself in an event announcing the redevelopment of our football stadium - we don't even have a football team - he just found it appalling and, very much a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, started ribbing folks about, "Why are we doing this? And how can we feel good as a community spending that much money?" in what he at the time didn't know was the lowest income neighborhood in Orange County.


Sittema couldn't believe that this was the way things had to be.


Luckily, Steve Hogan, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, which runs events for that venue, admitted that, you know, first of all, they're not a typical football team owner and that they're not-for-profit with a mission to give money away for charity by the events that they host and the money they raise. But, he admitted that he felt that they had been a mile wide and an inch deep - that they were giving money to charities all over town, but couldn't show they're moving the needle in any significant way. And then he shared his dream out loud that somehow this new venue and these new sponsorships and games and events could result in making the venue an economic engine for good. And the question he posed was like, "Could we become the first football stadium that's actually good for the neighborhood it's in?" And he admitted that was his dream, but then admitted he had no idea how to do that. And so a handful of us started to come together around that question, to figure out how to pull that off.


Camping World Stadium lies at the heart of 32805 zip code. If you looked at a map of Orange County, 32805 would be a bright red box surrounded by wealth and stability. The median annual household income for the whole county is over $50,000. For 32805, it's less than half that—just under $24,000. That's below the federal poverty level for a family of four.


It was a strategic location if you wanted to strike at the heart of where people were most disadvantaged and most vulnerable.


32805 was the epicenter in Orange County. About a mile east of Camping World Stadium is a two mile road running directly north-south. It divides 32805 from the wealthier downtown neighborhoods of Orlando.


When you leave downtown heading west, you cross the railroad tracks and the first intersection you find shortly after I should say is Division Avenue. Well, Division Avenue was named Division Avenue for a reason; our police headquarters was anchored at Division Avenue for a reason. It was the eastern boundary line of the segregated neighborhood we know as Paramore that's adjacent to our area. And in fact, it was illegal for you to be east of Division Avenue after six o'clock or to own a home anywhere across that street. So that began to open the eyes of our leaders that there was a history there. These places have not become distressed by mistake, and that, in fact, even steps taken towards its repair had unintentional consequences. The desegregation came, then everybody who could leave slowly left these neighborhoods, leaving behind only the families that were stuck without the means to go elsewhere.

NARRATOR (10:33)

Over the years, absentee landlords and poor economic decisions held back the area from opportunity. About 22,000 people live in 32805 today. 36 percent of them live below the poverty line. 13 percent are unemployed—that's more than three times the national average. Only 16 percent have a bachelor's degree or more. Working multiple jobs, dilapidated homes, paying for childcare and transportation, while trying to put food on the table.


Poverty and place are connected. In 32805, the northern boundary is pretty much Colonial Drive or Highway 50. If you happen to be smart enough to choose parents across the road, in 32804 - where our country club of Orlando is—and the College Park and Spring Lake neighborhoods—where many of our CEOs have beautiful homes—well, the odds of you graduating from high school, going to college, landing a job, starting a healthy family, are actually quite predictable for you and all your friends—no superhuman effort required.

NARRATOR (11:35)

It's only just across Colonial Drive, but 32804 might as well be in a completely different world. If you grew up in 32804, you are three times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree than someone in 32805. If you're born on the northern side of Colonial Drive, you will make in one year, on average, what someone on the southern side of Colonial Drive will need almost three years to make.


We need to provide a safer and better starting point for folks to have a thriving future and remove some of the barriers that have artificially been created to hold people back from opportunity.

NARRATOR (12:15)

Through their work, Eddie and LIFT Orlando try to bridge the gap between the arc of growth and the arc of opportunity—the difference between the overall upward-facing trajectory of Orlando in Orange County, and the struggling pursuit of the American Dream for many there.


There's this gap that, even while growth is coming to the region, there's a lack of access to opportunity for certain populations in that same region. And it's the same populations that we target for the reasons of generational distress being evident there. But not by accident.

NARRATOR (12:46)

The gap between the arc of growth and the arc of opportunity isn't only in Orlando, though—it's in neighborhoods all across America.


I am Kia Baker. I am the Executive Director of Southeast Raleigh Promise. Southeast Raleigh is the community that made me into who I am. I'm a native of Southeast Raleigh, grew up in that community my entire life. My family is still there. So the people that I'm working with and working for are my relatives, my friends, my classmates, and people that I'm deeply connected to. So the work is incredibly important for me personally.

NARRATOR (13:25)

Raleigh is a thriving and growing metro area—for some. The city, as a whole, is predominantly white. Raleigh's median household income is over $65,000—$10,000 higher than the national average.

Southeast Raleigh, on the other hand, is one of the pockets of poverty in the city. It has a rich history and culture as a diverse community. But the median annual household income is just under $47,000—nearly $8,000 lower than the average across all of Raleigh.

Kia and the Southeast Raleigh Promise project are working towards revitalization without displacement. In partnership with the YMCA of the Triangle, they bought 33 acres of land as the first step towards that revitalization.


That piece of land is located, is surrounded by the six census tracts with the highest levels of poverty within Southeast Raleigh.

NARRATOR (14:18)

Buying land like that isn't necessarily the only starting point for transformative neighborhood revitalization. It's just what Kia and the team chose because of what they saw in Southeast Raleigh.


So we're working along the Rock Quarry Road corridor, which is a main thoroughfare not only into the city, but connecting Southeast Raleigh.

NARRATOR (14:36)

If you walk down Rock Quarry Road today, you'll see it split by Interstate 40 heading south and Interstate 440 heading east. The northern and southern sides of Rock Quarry Road look like they're worlds apart.


We've heard that story over and over again in communities. So, on the northern end of Rock Quarry Road, you'll see a closer proximity to downtown. That's the area that, you know, you'll see a lot of new neighbors coming in and changing the look of our communities. And so, on that end of the street, what you're going to see and feel, it's palpable, are existing residents having a fear that they no longer really belong in their own neighborhood. What you're going to see is an influx of $1,200 baby strollers and bike lanes that magically appear overnight. And just, you know, really this kind of feeling of, "Okay, who is this neighborhood for? And what is the future of it?" If you go on the southern end of Rock Quarry Road, you're gonna see many more, much more homeownership, single family homes, still what we would call affordable. But one grocery store, by the way, serving this entire area, and a shopping center.

NARRATOR (15:58)

Growing up, Kia always noticed one major difference.

[public park sound effects fade-in]


We have a really great parks and rec system in our city. We have fantastic community centers and everything else. And this particular neighborhood has something that we don't have in very many places. It's called a mini park. It's the Bragg Street Mini Park. It has a wire fence around it. I think it has a swing set, a sliding board, and a half court basketball. And that's it. That's the only park, that's the only recreation facility for the children who live in that neighborhood.

[public park sound effects fade-out]

NARRATOR (16:33)

Just like Eddie in Orlando, Kia is working to lift up her neighbors, the people who grew up in the same neighborhood and circumstances as she did, to help them fight against the forces of intergenerational poverty.


You'll feel a little less of that fear, but some eyebrow-raising like, "Okay, well, we know what's coming pretty soon." And so that's what we're really trying to protect, is to make sure that on that southern end of Rock Quarry Road, that we really have the opportunities for people to grow, to thrive, to raise their families in a beautiful and healthy environment.

[moody music fade-in]

NARRATOR (17:08)

These "tales of two cities" are not only in Orlando and Raleigh. They're across the country. Intergenerational poverty affects 825 neighborhoods in our cities, both large and small. The US spends about a trillion dollars every year on poverty relief programs. Since the War on Poverty was declared in 1964, the national poverty rate has only gone from 19 percent to 14 percent. Five points in five decades. While we've seen huge wealth in some areas, and for some, poverty has not gone away. It's only changed its address.

NARRATOR (17:48)

In the next episode of This is Community, we will see that it takes more than good intentions and some money to really address the root of intergenerational poverty.


That really was intriguing, that how could it be that we're spending so much money, doing so much good work, and somehow making things worse?

NARRATOR (18:05)

Listen to This is Community wherever podcasts are available, or on, where you'll find more information on the Purpose Built model and the stories from this podcast.

This podcast is created in partnership with HL Strategy. Our executive producers are Eytan Davidson, Howard Lalli, and Sherry Crawley. Our producer, director, and editor is Brady Hummel. Mixing and mastering is by Matt Honkonen. And our music is from Pitchwire. If you liked this series, be sure to subscribe and share it.

I'm Alexandra Wiggins for Purpose Built Communities and this—is community.

[moody music slow fade-out]

3 views0 comments
bottom of page