Residents of the Jordan Park public housing complex are taking security into their own hands. The first four members of an all-volunteer security force have been trained by St. Petersburg police. Chief Ernest "Curt" Curtsinger swore them in Tuesday evening, and they have official security force uniforms.
"They will serve as real neighborhood watchers," said Bertha Gilkey, the nationally known public housing advocate who has helped bring the residents to this point.
The security officers will augment the "Pride Patrol," police officers who work the housing complex on foot.
"It's going to help a lot," said Bernice Perry, president of the Jordan Park residents' association. "All of us have got to stick together."
The residents' security force, which hopes to have a security station in addition to the patrols, is an outgrowth of the resident management program at Jordan Park, the city's oldest public housing complex.
Gilkey has been spending three days a month in St. Petersburg, helping the residents set up programs that eventually could lead to Jordan Park becoming a resident-owned and operated complex.
Gilkey says she is training the residents to feel better about themselves and to take charge of their neighborhood and its 446 apartments.
At the same ceremony Tuesday, Gilkey and the Housing Authority swore in the first officers of the Jordan Park Resident Management Association.
They are Mrs. Perry, Alberta Quarterman, Johnnie Jones, Ruth Pettis, Virginia Charles, Ben McFadden, Wilbert Shack and Vernadean Shaw.
In the eight months since the effort started, the group has organized neighborhood cleanups, started classes to help residents get their equivalency diplomas, formed a small catering service and started to organize a resident-run child-care center.
Gilkey said the idea is to teach people that being poor doesn't make them worthless, and that they can achieve.
"They don't want someone to fish for them," she said. "They want to learn to fish."