At Oasis – A Haven for Women and Children, we serve over 700 women and children daily in our headquarters on Mill Street. We empower all our clients – women and youth alike – to find their voice and become engaged in their community. Recently, we hosted a forum to discuss the upcoming mayoral election; over 80 of our adult education students participated. We would like to share some of their biggest concerns about the future of this great city.
Safety and crime
There are many sections of the city where our women do not feel safe to walk during the day, let alone at night. From increased drug-use to a resurgence in prostitution, our students feel their neighborhoods are deteriorating. Many wait in frustration as a stretched-thin police force doesn’t respond to their phone calls. All see increased community policing as part of the solution, but they also long for greater neighborhood building efforts. This includes a stronger presence in the community by elected officials. As one woman noted, “We only see them on the streets at election time. Where are they the rest of the year?”
Transparency and customer service in government
Very few of our women have had positive experiences with city employees, and most say there is very little transparency about city services and programs. Indeed, the city website and departmental pages are woefully inadequate and out of date. And due to decades of corruption in many levels of government, many don’t trust city leaders. Their hope is that the next mayor actively works to improve transparency, rebuild trust, and focus on the customer service side of city employment.
Parks and recreation
As with general concerns about safety, our women feel unsafe in almost all our city parks, especially small, neighborhood ones, and do not allow their children to visit these parks alone. They speak of drug paraphernalia, overflowing garbage, even pimps. This is unacceptable and would not happen in other municipalities. Additionally, there are not enough recreation opportunities for children of all ages, registration is not transparent, and what does exist is unaffordable to many. Safe spaces and activities for our youth need to be high priorities in the next administration.
Other quality of life issues
From potholes to trash pick-up to little recycling, there is much room for improvement across the city. The dirtiness of the city was a repeated theme in our forum, demonstrating a lack of pride in our community. Some complained about the absence of street parking in their neighborhood, where metered parking dominates. Others mentioned broken street cameras that don’t act as a crime deterrence. In mentioning all these issues, our women spoke of feeling as if their concerns are never heard; that you need to “know someone” to get anything done.
We understand that money is needed to address many of these challenges, and we hope the next mayor has a plan in place to attract outside grant funding that can help in each of these areas. After listening to our women, we also hope the next mayor is more actively engaged in the neighborhoods of Paterson – holding forums and community meetings, encouraging local leadership. We know one thing for sure – our women look forward to hosting the next mayor here at Oasis after his inauguration to discuss our shared future.
Jennifer Brady – Executive Director
Kathleen Long – Chief Development and Marketing Officer