Cambridge celebrates National Community Development Week


National Community Development Week runs from April 11-15, 2022. This week-long celebration brings together communities across the country to showcase the impact of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a grant Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The CDBG program provides grants to more than 1,200 local governments to create neighborhood approaches that improve physical, economic, and social conditions in communities. In Cambridge, CDBG grants fund a range of initiatives that support youth programs, workforce development, local business improvement, public services, and more.

These initiatives are led by the City’s Community Development Department (CDD), Department of Social Service Programs (DHSP), and various other local agencies, nonprofits, and for-profits. The DHSP administers 15% of Cambridge CDBG’s annual funding through Public Services Grants to Community Programs, in accordance with the funding recommendations of the Cambridge Human Services Commission. Each year, the City provides services to approximately 6,500 low- and low-income individuals and families through 23 CDBG-funded public service grants.

Some Cambridge CDBG highlights include:

  • YouthBuild: As part of the city’s housing rehabilitation assistance programme, our community partner Just-A-Start is providing employment and training skills to young people in Cambridge while engaging them in rehabilitation and the development of affordable housing.
  • Home Improvement Program: CDBG funds are used to help non-profit housing agencies provide technical and financial assistance to low- and middle-income Cambridge homeowners to make necessary repairs to their homes.
  • Business development workshops: In fall 2021, CDBG funding supported training workshops for small business owners and entrepreneurs on topics including marketing, e-commerce, and accounting.
  • 10 week business planning program: Since fall 2021, two cohorts of entrepreneurs (22 participants in total) have developed comprehensive business plans over the course of 10 weeks where they learned about financing, marketing techniques and pitching. A group of graduates brought their skills to the Popportunity Pop-Up Market in Central Square.
  • Retail Interior Accessibility Program (RIAP): This program offers a matching grant of 90-100% up to $10,000 to business owners looking to make their business more accessible. Completed in October 2021, the Mex Taqueria & Bar in Kendall Square used a $10,000 RIAP grant to remodel its bathroom to ADA standards.
  • Food safety: Food for Free delivers approximately 624,000 pounds of fresh and canned produce to 66 Cambridge food aid programs, including food pantries, meal programs, youth programs and shelters.
  • Homelessness and eviction prevention services: The DHSP One Stop Center helps Cambridge residents facing housing instability by supporting assessment and case management, information and referral, and counseling and support services.
  • CASPAR Emergency Services Center and Shelter: CDBG Public Services funds support CASPAR, which provides emergency shelter services for people who use drugs and alcohol.
  • SCM Transportation: This program provides medical transportation and groceries for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • After-school and year-round employment programs: CDBG utility funds support Cambridge Housing Authority’s after-school life skills programme, with a focus on SAT preparation, college preparation, job support and even more so for young people residing in public housing estates.

Each year, the Department of Community Development develops a draft federal funds allocation plan for the coming year. The proposed action plan is now available for review and comment and outlines how the City plans to use CDBG, as well as funds from the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, Emergency Solutions Grant ( ESG) and housing opportunities for people with AIDS (HOPWA). Anyone interested in providing feedback on the draft action plan can do so until May 6, 2022 by emailing Robert Keller, or by post – City of Cambridge Community Development Department 344 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139.

Check out @CDDat344 on social media (Facebook, Twitterand instagram) this week to see highlights from National Community Development Week and follow the hashtag #CDWeek2022 to see how other communities are benefiting from the CDBG program.

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