Housing Complex has an interesting piece today about the latest in what seems to be a neverending drama about the Peacoholics. It involves their building a 13-unit transitional living facility for at-risk youth, apparently with funds stemming from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development in Ward 8's Congress Heights.
The story is the same we've heard again and again about Peacoholics. It's not that people object to their mission - in fact, they'd find a lot of support from just about everyone. It's not even NIMBYism. Rather, the issues with Peacoholics come down to this every single time:
Confrontational approach. Peacoholics and its leaders seem to take an adversarial, confrontational, and defensive approach to addresssing the community. Although any other group involved in a development project would come before the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and explain the project to residents, and seek their support at the get-go (the project across the street from theirs indeed did so), Peacoholics addressed the community only after controversy erupted and was summoned by the ANC. As described in the article, they sat in the back of the ANC meeting, didn't introduce themselves, then lashed out when questioned about their finances. Ultimately, they accused an ANC Commissioner of seeking bribes from them and sued her for defamation. I've witnessed a similar meeting in Shaw.
Lack of transparency and accountability. Peacoholics seem to receive a lot of government funds (fire engine transfer to the DR aside) [UPDATE: Wow, Congress Heights on the Rise has posted documents residents received in response to a FOIA request. They show that Peacoholics received $1.3 million from the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services in FY 2008-2009, $4.5 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund in FY 2007-2009, $300k from the Public Safety and Justice budget in FY 2007-2008, and $50k from the Department of Human Services in FY 2008.] Even after the Council cut off millions in earmarks, here it is again receiving public money. But even that is not a problem in itself. While the group declares matter of factly that they have stopped killings in [insert your neighborhood], it will not produce any reports, statistics, etc. that provide a description of precisely what it does, how many youth it serves and in what capacity, a budget/financial statement showing how it spends its money, its accomplishments... results. The lack of accountability, particularly when public money is at issue, raises concern.
It's really a shame. Providing support in the form of mentoring and job placement is important for at-risk youths, as is showing them there are alternatives to the cycle of gang violence and retaliation. Nonprofit groups such as Peacoholics have a role to play that may not be adequately filled by MPD in enforcing the law and government agencies in providing social services. But the approach, the management, the seeming contempt for anyone who asks questions undermines this organization's effectiveness.