Liberty City Square residents fearful in their own homes

caines | 4/4/2013, 5:30 a.m.

You may get a host of answers as to how Miamis 753-unit public housing apartment complex, Liberty Square, got its more colloquial name The Pork & Beans. But one thing on which most will agree is that when it comes to crime and danger, Liberty Square ranks number one in the County. Once a middle-income community, Black flight saw those with the adequate financial means heading to suburban settings. Those who remained were mostly the elderly and single-mother families with limited education and financial options, many of whom once lived in crowded neighborhoods in Overtown. Since the 1960s, reports indicate that living standards in the project have drastically declined. Today, it is common to hear gunshots ring out each night and to see evening news reports that speak about yet another incident of Black-on-Black crime. Recently, a group of Liberty Square tenants, led by the officers from their Resident Council, met to discuss ways to reclaim their community, to make their streets safer and how to partner with City and County officials in their efforts to stop the violence. Sara Alvin-Smith, 51, a two-term president of the Liberty Square Resident Council, Inc. [LSRC], has lived in the projects for 17 years. She has raised three children and her sisters four [after her death from an AIDS-related illness] and is currently taking care of two teenaged grandchildren. She says shes been fortunate none of her kids have been hurt. But a few years ago she had a very close call of her own. I was sitting on my porch with some girlfriends and then we heard a barrage of shots, she said. Before we could get inside I realized I had been shot. Thats how fast it can happen. Its gotten to the point that a lot of our residents wont even come out after dark. Theyre afraid to let their kids go out and play. Thats why weve become so vocal people deserve to live in a place where they feel safe enough to come outside and enjoy life. Its like an old western ghost town here the Wild, Wild West, said Ronald Baker, 25, who operates his non-profit business, Isis Foundation, at the Liberty Square Community Center. Illiteracy is a real challenge; sometimes I think people feel trapped with very few options to better their lives.

Nwestern High gets involved

LSRC has enlisted the services of Wallace Aristide, 48, Northwestern Highs principal. Many of the students live in Liberty Square and had reported that the reason they were skipping school was because the path to and from school was a dangerous one. Thats when Aristide stepped in. We have parents, teachers and others that are on the streets before and after school and the kids know who they are, he said. It makes them feel more secure. We have the entire community getting involved. We have some talented children but they need encouragement. I have found that when they see that a goal is really attainable and they can touch it, they wont stop until theyve achieved it. That means we have to raise our expectations. But first we have to keep them safe.