Continued Engagement in Houston Neighborhoods

Date: 1/22/2018

Author: Megan Farley, Communications

Team members here at the Institute for Sustainable Communities (IfSC) have started taking trips to Houston to do work with Charity Productions in south Houston. Charity Productions hosts a monthly "Community Partnership Breakfast" in which residents, local news stations, and elected officials are welcome to attend and work on solving community needs. The beauty of these breakfasts is that they serve as a non-partisan event in which its attendees can interact socially, for business, build on their culture, discuss current politics, and share ideas on community needs and solutions.  Driving the work behind these trips is Charles X White and Dr. John Cooper. Charles X White is the CEO of Charity productions and has been working in public safety and health issues for over 20 years. He became a community fellow here at the institute this past October in recognition for his excellent work in helping us to perform pioneering research, create high-impact learning experiences for TAMU students, and facilitating engagement in south Houston neighborhoods. Dr. John Cooper is the director of Texas Target Communities and Assistant Vice President Public Partnership and Outreach at Texas A&M University. He is committed to work on transforming neglected communities and plans on continuing work with charity productions in the south Houston neighborhoods to improve their housing, infrastructure, sanitation/maintenance, security, and economic development.
Our initial trip to the Sunnyside Community breakfast with Charity Productions led to some very interesting results. We performed a survey at the breakfast which assessed the perceived mental and physical health of the participants. Upon review, we were surprised to see that despite the perceived physical health score of the group being significantly lower than the average for Houston, the perceived mental health score was significantly higher. These two scores typically have a positive correlation, where a low physical health score would typically have been accompanied by a low mental health score. This was not at all the case for those in this community gathering. Published research shows that being a part of an established community can increase mental health, and we are wondering if this may be what is causing these unique results. Dr. Sansom, Associate Director for the Institute, spoke on these results during the event. We're going to be delving further into this by conducting future surveys for both community member attendees and for the general population in these neighborhoods.
In our most recent trip, Dr. Cooper and Charles X White both spoke on the continuing work we’ll be collaborating on in regard to more research being performed and plans to improve the education, safety, economy, and health of the south Houston neighborhoods. Blueprints and informational posters were posted around the room for the attendees to view and discuss prior to the beginning of the breakfast. During the breakfast, Charles X White invited various community members to the front to speak about their concerns, needs, and what they feel these community breakfasts accomplish for them and their neighborhoods. Several community members came forward and spoke about their lives, homes, and concerns openly for both those in attendance and those who would be watching afterwards. During the breakfast, Charles X White conducted a survey for the attending community members which addressed their lifestyles in their community such as which grocery stores they shop at and which hospitals they go to. After the breakfast, we reviewed the results of the last survey for the attendees and explained our plans for continuing research with their continued assistance.
We’d like to thank Charles X White for his amazing contributions to the Houston neighborhoods and for his help here at the Institute and eagerly anticipate our future work with him in establishing more thriving communities so close to home.

Charles Whites Speaking at Community Breakfast
Image of Dr. John Cooper Jr. Courtesy of Richard Nira, College of Architecture