SOUTH BEND — Boots will soon be on the ground to combat a problem with lead-poisoned kids on the city’s near northwest side, thanks to a $30,000 federal grant awarded to a local neighborhood group.
Two part-time community outreach workers will soon be hired by the Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc. for ayearlong project as a result of the grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Small Grant Program.
The group also received a $16,500 grant earlier this year from the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County for the outreach project, which will start in January.
Outreach workers will get the word out about the risks in old homes of lead, a toxic metal that can permanently damage the brains of young children. Efforts will be focused on helping families with children in a neighborhood with a history of lead problems. It is known as U.S. Census Tract 6.
Local health officials began focusing on the area’s problem after the state released testing data in late 2016 that showed an unusually high percentage of young children had elevated blood levels from 2005 through 2015 in Tract 6, along with other neighborhoods. Tract 6 stood out because it had the greatest percentage of kids with elevated levels in the state.
The new employees, who will be trained to become certified community health workers, will go door-knocking in Tract 6 to encourage families to get children tested and keep their homes leadsafe, said Kathy Schuth, executive director of the neighborhood group.