Sunnyside Shines: Community fair launches comprehensive plan for reinvestment in Houston

Melissa Beeler, Texas Housers community planner
Melissa Beeler, Texas Housers community planner

A community fair on September 24 brought neighbors together to discuss and officially launch the Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan, a comprehensive strategy for reinvestment. Fifty Sunnyside residents and guests visited Mt. Hebron Baptist Church’s Family Life Center to raise awareness about the plan, gather feedback for its next steps and connect with service providers, such as the Houston Independent School District (HISD) and the Houston Police Department (HPD), that will be integral partners in advancing some of the strategies in the plan.

Sunnyside neighbors had a variety of opportunities to interact with the plan, by viewing infographics from the plan, prioritizing strategies, posting ideas for individual involvement and telling their Sunnyside story. The video below features snippets of three conversations about Sunnyside’s past, present and potential:


20160924_144452Several public officials attended the event, including a representative from State Senator Rodney Ellis’ office and Houston Interim Director of Housing and Community Development Tom McCasland, who presented an official proclamation from Mayor Sylvester Turner declaring September 24 to be Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan Day in Houston (left). McCasland also revealed that the City’s blue tarp program will begin to repair select single family homes in Sunnyside, as well as City efforts to begin drafting a comprehensive housing plan, which will incorporate strategies from the Community Development, Housing and Infrastructure section of the Sunnyside plan.

Attendees took part in activities to identify priorities for the next phase of the Sunnyside plan process. On the map of the neighborhood, homeowners and renters placed dots where they lived. Many residents in attendance filled out demographic surveys and listed their most pressing concerns for the neighborhood. In order, the top concerns listed were crime and safety, infrastructure (including trash pick-up and street conditions), housing, schools and other issues such as junk cars, loose dogs, livable wages and unemployment.

Rev. Henry Price, one of the leaders of the Sunnyside Plan, speaks at the event.
Rev. Henry Price, one of the leaders of the Sunnyside Plan, speaks at the event.

Within each of the plan’s three category areas, participants identified their priorities for action moving forward:

Youth and Education 

  • HISD assesses grade deficiencies in Sunnyside schools
  • Access to counseling and social services for students
  • Daycare and preschool for all families in Sunnyside

Crime and Safety

  • Increasing education, employment and community involvement among youth and formerly incarcerated
  • Break the school to prison pipeline
  • Establish a community policing model in Sunnyside

Community Development, Housing and Infrastructure

  • Rehab single family housing
  • City adopts the plan!
  • Help residents protest property taxes and apply for exemptions

Attendees also pledged to stay involved, attend upcoming meetings around the plan and find ways to make a difference in Sunnyside, such as working with community organizations to offer extracurricular activities for youth, offering to help their elderly neighbors with yard work or grocery trips and using the momentum from the Sunnyside Plan to continue bringing the community together.