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City outreach specialists focus on a central Columbia neighborhood

Part of the city of Columbia’s strategic plan includes empowering impoverished neighborhoods.

One neighborhood its focusing on is in the central part of the city, north of Ash, east of West Blvd., south of the Business Loop and west of Providence.

According to city statistics, about 65 percent of homes in that area were occupied by renters. Another 11 percent were vacant. That left just about a quarter of the homes occupied by the homeowners.

One way outreach specialists Glenn Cobbins and Judy Hubbard try to help residents improve their living situation is by helping them secure livable-wage jobs.

“One of the big things I pride myself in doing is getting people to sign up for the driving jobs with this city,” Cobbins said. “They can get their CDLs and the city takes care of all of that cost, all the training. Even if they don’t stay with the city and they want to drive an 18-wheeler, they got it. That’s huge for a family.”

Cobbins and Hubbard have been living in Columbia for decades and said it could take decades more for the strategic plan to see major results.

“It’s a multifaceted issue to try to build community,” Hubbard said. “It’s for social equity, jobs.”

“This is a marathon,” Cobbins said. “This is not the 100-yard dash. We have to stay the course and we’ll be OK.”

Hubbard said it’s hard for families to establish themselves in a neighborhood when they earn low-wages. She said buying a home is difficult, and expensive, when the person’s credit rating may be below optimal.

ABC 17 News reached out to rental agencies in Columbia about their rental policies and how they vet their tenants. One group told us it uses public court records to avoid the price of a background check. Another referenced us to its tenant guidelines, which state no one listed on the lease can have a felony record.

Hubbard said it’s important for neighborhoods in cities to build a community. Hubbard believes looking out for neighbors and attending community events can make neighborhoods better places to live and more appealing for people looking to move to Columbia.

“Going to activities and things that you have in common and building on that commonality, that builds a community but that also builds a city,” Hubbard said.

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