2020 All-America City Finalist – Douglasville, GA

The City of Douglasville, like many other towns and cities, was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn of 2008. Since this time, city staff has been working hard to make a transformative change to make up the ground lost during the recession and it was imperative that the residents be included in the process. Focus groups and steering committees made up of city residents and stakeholders were assembled to provide input on planning projects that will achieve the city’s transformative goals:  The Downtown, Parks and Recreation, and Northside Redevelopment Master Plans.

These plans and the projects featured in Douglasville’s All-America City application are examples of how the city has worked tirelessly to create a culture of engagement and to break down the barriers between itself and the citizens that they serve.

Douglasville Becomes a Leader in Parks & Recreation
In 2018, Douglasville’s Parks and Recreation Department began to pursue accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). This is a multi-year process that requires an extended period of self-examination, including agency authority and responsibility, planning, organization and administration, financial management, and programs and service management.

To become accredited, Douglasville had to overhaul the way they structured and created their programming and how they would expand their outreach to the entire community. As a result of the self-examination, the Parks and Recreation Department created the Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Master Plan.

The perfect opportunity to put their new plan into action arose when the department needed to design three neighborhood parks. To ensure the redesign of these parks were driven totally by the neighborhoods they service, they held public meetings to receive input and guide the discussion.

It was also during this time that the Parks and Recreation Department created the Douglasville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. The aim of this advisory board is to assist in the execution of new programming, continued community outreach, and to serve as advocates for an active community.

The impact of the CAPRA Accreditation and advisory board has been immense. Not only has the Parks and Recreation Department created lines of communication between themselves and the community, they have also created a trusting bond that will last for decades.

The Police Department’s Community Outreach Program (DCOP)
The Douglasville Police Department (DPD) believes in the “We are One” philosophy of community policing, reaching out to citizens and getting involved in the daily life of the community

The DCOP program bridges the divide between the community and law enforcement through several citizen clinics and events that are open to the public.

  • Citizen Police Academy – This 10-week program helps citizens learn about the police department by showcasing police department functions to the community for a better understanding of what law enforcement deals with daily.
  • Handgun Clinic – Citizens are encouraged to attend and learn about Georgia firearm laws, firearms safety, handling, and marksmanship. Attendees are given the opportunity to shoot in the Police Department indoor firing range with certified firearms instructors.
  • Youth Against Violence Program – This program is designed to educate and deter youth from using violence as a means of conflict resolution. More than a decade old, this program proactively addresses youth in order to prevent violence in the future.

In addition, each holiday season officers assist the Kiwanis Club of Douglas County and the Douglas County School System during the Christmas season to take 120 under-privileged children Christmas shopping.

Other outreach efforts include the Back-to-School Backpack Program, DCOP Street-to-Street, weekly meetings at the Hollis Street Community House, and frequent “Chat with the Chief” events where Chief Sparks and his command staff visit local restaurants for breakfast and conversation.

Over the past 5 years crime has incrementally decreased and the amount of citations issued have dropped by 24%, while community outreach events have increased by 23%.

Coordinated Entry Programs to Help Residents Experiencing Homelessness
In recent years, it became apparent that more help and resources were needed to service people experiencing homelessness in Douglasville. To address this, the City of Douglasville reached out to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, upon hearing about grant opportunities that were available to communities who wished to implement a coordinated entry system.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs describes the coordinated entry process as “a streamlined system that provides quick access to individuals and families seeking assistance through a coordinated referral and housing placement process.”

This system provides a network of service providers to reach those with the highest vulnerability and barriers to housing. By engaging community stakeholders and developing a work plan, the city was awarded a $70,000 grant to implement this system throughout Douglas County.

Since the program has only recently begun, the city cannot numerically measure the impact on residents. However, given the small number of Coordinated Entry systems in the state and country, the creation of a system in Douglasville is a huge impact in itself.

The city and county have agreed upon a location that will serve as the central location for Coordinated Entry and will begin providing services to the homeless community for years to come, providing secure and long-term housing and improving on the mental and physical health and well-being of those individuals.

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