Hope Grows on Trees in These Low-Income Neighborhoods

A new documentary shows how trust and respect can be seeds for thriving communities.

April 13, 2016

Just a few miles east of the White House lies the Eighth Ward, one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. The community has long struggled with unemployment, which hit a whopping 25 percent during the Great Recession.

Cue the $2.7 million stimulus grant to the nonprofit Washington Parks and People, which was charged with getting folks back to work via green job training. The organization had two years to hire 150 people and plant thousands of trees in urban-blighted parks and streets throughout the city.

For people like Charles Holcomb, a new father, and Michael Samuels, an ex-con looking for a fresh start, the opportunity was life changing, but their new jobs also helped transform their neighborhood. “We just wanted to bring some sunshine to the community,” says a WPP employee who grew up in Ward 8. “I’m tired of having funerals for our young kids.”

Work like this, however, is seldom simple. The new documentary City of Trees showcases some of the obstacles local green projects face—from community distrust to the struggle for government funding. But when neighbors can come together in green spaces that they’re proud of, roots of change can take hold.

City of Trees airs Tuesday night on World Channel as part of the nationally broadcast series America ReFramed. It is also available online here.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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