Briggs Chaney: ‘Profound Income Disparities’ in East Montgomery County
A study by local nonprofit finds some residents living east of Route 29 had significantly lower incomes than people with similar education on the west side of the road.
A new study suggests that residents on the west side of Route 29 may generally be more wealthy than their counterparts on the east side of the road. But not more educated.
During an intense study of the Briggs Chaney neighborhood, IMPACT Silver Spring discovered census tracts with very similar levels of education, but very different income levels.
“That was the most startling revelation,” said Ronnie Galvin, executive director of IMPACT. “The education level is the same, but [the income levels] are almost triple the difference.”
According to a report submitted to the county’s department of health and human services in January 2011, the residents of the tracts with lower income were primarily African-American and continental African. Galvin said the tract with higher income was majority white.
IMPACT was encouraged to study the area around the intersection of Briggs Chaney Road and Castle Boulevard about a year ago by Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-Dist 4) and Uma Ahluwalia, director of health and human services.
The question was could Briggs Chaney benefit from the kind of county-assisted neighborhood networks already established in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring, in Wheaton and in Gaithersburg?
The networks consists of county agencies, including health and human services and the office of community partnerships, working with non-profits to connect residents to emergency services—things like helping to pay rent, food, clothing and health services.
There’s also a second ambition for the networks: Resurrect old-school neighborliness.
“We invite people to connect to their neighbors who can also help them during times of crisis,” said Galvin.
Wealth disparity was the unexpected finding of the study. Galvin also learned that the neighborhood is lacking in opportunities for youth and struggling with its position in relative isolation. People find themselves having to go to Wheaton, downtown Silver Spring, Germantown or Gaithersburg to access social services, he said.
To address all of the key challenges, IMPACT applied for a county grant on behalf of the residents of Briggs Chaney.
In the short-term, he plans to create a sports league for young people. This will give kids something positive to do and stimulate parent involvement, he said. IMPACT will also begin to regularly meet with non-profits, schools and churches that serve the neighborhood to faciliate connecting neighbors with the services already available.
In the long-term, Galvin wants to figure out the economic disparity piece. He wants to bring all kinds of people together—white and non-white, faith leaders and business leaders—to “really go deeper into this report and analyze why this disparity exists.”
“This issue of this disparity we are not going to leave alone,” Galvin said. “We cannot do the work there in East County with any level of integrity if we don’t pay attention to that.”