Issues (Situation)

The Third Ward is home to nearly 55,000 people, with ethnic/racial percentages of 93% African American, 4% Hispanic, and 3% for other ethnicities. Of these 55,000 people, 45% of residents do not have high school diplomas1.

Greater than 47% of families living in the Third Ward exist well below the poverty line; yet it can be argued that nearly 91% live below the poverty line based on those who qualify for school lunch programs. A troubling image is presented when viewing the statistics of years of potential life lost (YPLL) for African Americans (8,200 YPLL) in the Third Ward.

Errant men turn to lives of crime on the street as proven by the four out of the five highest Houston crime areas being within the Third Ward. Sixteen percent of arrests in the Third Ward are drug related, whereas the mean for all of Houston is 4%2. Harris County Jail reports that nearly 10% of inmates come from the Third Ward area and also projects that 3.4% to 5.9% of prisoners will be released back to the Third Ward3.

Ninety percent of the households are without fathers, subsisting below the poverty line with a median income of less than $8,000 per annum, as well as an incarceration rate of three out of five males, despite the fact that the Third Ward houses the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. The Third Ward receives temporary population increases due to Harris County Prison’s release of previous offenders who exercise the option to reside in the Third Ward, where employment opportunities are scarce. Upon release, these individuals typically will be serviced by The Forge and some of our Third Ward partners who house them, like Star of Hope.

Concerning the Second Ward, 86% of the 22,000 residents are Hispanic, 8% African American, 5% White, and 1% Asian4. Some 68% do not have high school diplomas. Hispanics in the Second Ward (5,340 YPLL)

For both wards, observations speak to conditions having worsened in this weakened economic climate. In addition, language barriers and ethnocentric isolation serve as restrictions for upward mobility in regards to employment and education for the majority of the Hispanic population. Increasing levels of gang activity, crime, and disassociated fathers compound poor decisions. Drug use and territorial turf battles plague the streets and neighborhoods of both targeted wards. The unemployment/non-labor-force rates in the wards hover at 55% and 67% for Hispanics and Black, respectively, which is well above Harris County’s 4.2%. This specific population is at-risk due to a 70% absentee father rate, which exacerbates fourfold the effects of generational poverty, scarcity of employment, juvenile delinquency, and imprisonment.