Naughton to discuss breaking cycle of poverty

Between the 1970s and 1995, the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta was home to the East Lake Meadows housing project, which boasted a high crime rate and heavy drug traffic.

Today, it’s home to a thriving, mixed-income community and Atlanta’s first charter school. These changes are, in large part, thanks to the East Lake Foundation.

Carol R. Naughton has been involved with the East Lake Foundation since its beginning, and she now serves as president of Purpose Built Communities, which seeks to replicate East Lake’s success around the country. She will give a lecture titled “Place Matters: Creating Neighborhoods that Break the Cycle of Poverty” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

“As a result of East Lake doing really well and getting better and better results for families and with families, we started Purpose Built Communities to help other people around the country do the same thing,” she said.

Purpose Built Communities is a nonprofit organization that works with community leaders to create holistic revitalization plans for struggling neighborhoods.

These revitalizations create livable communities that offer mixed-income housing, good schools and health and wellness programs, Naughton said.

“A livable neighborhood has all of those three things,” she said. “[But] these revitalizations are really hard and complicated, and they may take 10 years to really build out and create all the infrastructure in place. It doesn’t happen organically.”

Instead, these projects require a “community quarterback” organization, which works with community leaders and outside organizations to ensure the revitalization effort runs smoothly and receives adequate funding and support.

Naughton spent 10 years as a private-sector lawyer and served as general counsel and deputy executive director for Legal and Nonprofit Affairs for the Atlanta Housing Authority. She has also served as president of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers.

Naughton has spoken at Chautauqua once before with Eva Davis, the former president of the East Lake Meadows Residents’ Association. Though Davis has since passed away, Naughton said she was sure Davis would be pleased that East Lake was still being discussed at the Institution.

“I will be thinking about her the whole time, because this is, in large part, her story that I’ll be telling,” Naughton said.

Although Purpose Built Communities is not a religiously affiliated organization, Naughton said their work can be understood in a spiritual context.

“I think when we seek to create mixed-income neighborhoods with a goal of letting everybody reach their full potential, what we’re really doing is building communities for children of God with unlimited human potential,” she said. “And if we do our stuff right, people will be able to reach that potential.”