Neighborhood Allies Investments Support New Capacity in the Hilltop

Mar 28, 2017

With support from Neighborhood Allies, two Hilltop organizations, the Hilltop Alliance and UrbanKind Institute have new staff and deeper capacity to fulfill their respective mission’s and improve quality of life in the Hilltop neighborhoods.

In 2016, we provided Catalytic Grants to the Hilltop Alliance and UrbanKind Institute to build their organizational and community capacity in the areas of property stabilization and youth outreach and engagement services– both of which were identified as areas of need and opportunity for the Hilltop neighborhoods. Get to know the new staffer’s and a little about the good work they are doing on the ground in the Hilltop!

Roy Blankenship | Property Stabilization Fellow | Hilltop Alliance

TaQuala Donaldon | Outreach and Engagement Coordinator | UrbanKind Institute

Property Stabilization | Hilltop Alliance

The Hilltop Alliance’s Property Stabilization Program (PSP) is one of the premiere code enforcement intermediary programs in the City, working directly with property owners to help them access available resources and fix the problem before punitive fines are pursued through the City.  Using in-house offerings such as their side yard grants and residential façade grants, while also leveraging other available third-party resources, the Program has a 36.9% success rate, having resolved 107 code issues to-date.

With limited staff capacity preventing them from scaling this program to the level that was needed to address the magnitude of code issues in the Hilltop neighborhoods, Neighborhood Allies was able to step in and provide a $74,000 Catalytic Grant to support a one-year PSP Fellow and the production of a Guide on how to start a PSP in other neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, with our support, the Hilltop Alliance hired Roy Blankenship as their inaugural PSP fellow. Roy is tasked with:

  • Identifying and resolving quality of life and property maintenance code issues throughout Allentown, Beltzhoover and Knoxville
  • Engaging with homeowners to connect them with resources before they are confronted with a property maintenance crisis
  • Fundrasing for supplemental comprehensive property stabilization initiatives

Youth Outreach and Engagement | UrbanKind Institute

Several of the Hilltop’s neighborhoods have the highest density of youth in the city. These same neighborhoods, also lack recreation centers, programmed activities, spaces and places for youth to engage and be productive. Consequently, youth are too often either idle or engaged in non-productive activities. Young people “hanging out” along the business corridors of Warrington Avenue and Brownsville Road make it difficult for the shop owners to attract customers. In many cases, these youth become prey for others who would like to lure them into illicit activities.

Working with Remake Learning, The UrbanKind Institute developed a job description for a Youth Services & Programs Coordinator to help the Hilltop overcome the dearth of capacity in youth serving organizations by building the capacity of personnel in youth serving programs so that they may expand their programs to attract more youth through better programming.

With our support, UrbanKind was able to hire a Outreach and Engagement Coordinator to:

  • Serve as a liaison between youth and their families, service providers, philanthropies, and the public schools
  • Identify synergies between existing programs and partners
  • Plan events that bring neighbors and families together to make the neighborhood a better place for young people

Get To Know Roy Blankenship…

  1. Job Title: Property Stabilization Fellow
  2. What you actually do: Utilizing Pittsburgh Building Eye, a code enforcement system, we have identified unstable and potentially hazardous conditions that might negatively effect a resident or the community in general. I reach out to and engage residents at these properties and provide them solutions from our tool-kit which include everything from homeowner loans through the URA and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, to a list of available local, trusted contractors and access to grant funding for a side-lot.
  3. The neighborhood you live in and why you love it: Knoxville–I have a 6 bedroom house with a nice yard and excellent neighbors. We have a very active block watch which brought the neighbors together years ago.
  4. Before your fellowship at Hilltop Alliance you were: I started as a 154 Boilermaker. In our off season, I started a community action group called “unified”, that dealt with public safety issues and solutions. Having 10 kids at home, I wanted to ensure positive growth was happening and I took putting them in a positive environment into my own hands through this action group. We hosted events in the community to unify the police, government, churches, citizens, politicians and saw 98% crime drop over 6 months!
  5. What are some of your goals to accomplish during your fellowship? Enroll 40 residents in services and outreach support, 60-100 properties are cataloged and identified with possible solutions, find a way to expand the Allentown Facade Program to be Hilltop wide, and secure more funding to support this important work!

Get To Know TaQuala Donaldson…

  1. Job Title: Outreach and Engagement Coordinator
  2. What you actually do: I link different organizations that serve youth with services. My work is focused around Asset Building Community Development (ABDC) so that we can strengthen the community from within. I work a lot with the Beltzhoover Consensus Group, Knoxville Community Council, and My Brothers Keeper.
  3. The neighborhood you live in and why you love it: I recently moved to the Northside. I absolutely love it. It is serene and peaceful.
  4. Before you started at UrbanKind you were: I most recently worked at DHS as a youth support coordinator–it was my job to advocate for youth that have the same experiences I did. I also oversaw the Youth Council. But I got my start in this line of work at Bethany Place where I was a Community Youth Organizer.
  5. What are some of your goals to accomplish during your first year? To unify the community through events, get parents engaged or re-engaged with the schools, build bridges across the Hilltop neighborhoods and hopefully become the “Hey Neighbor” girl that residents trust and rely upon.


Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA