Neighbors share stories of lead poisoning in South Bend

The St. Joseph County Health Department has a new plan to combat lead poisoning in kids.

Part of that plan is community outreach which has already begun

The Near Northwest Neighborhood hosted a town hall about the lead problem on Thursday.

The focus of the meeting was listening, and putting a face and a story to the lead issues in South Bend.

For community members the problem is more than a statistic.

The community is on the front-lines of the push to prevent lead poisoning in South Bend.

State representatives, city council members, and other community leaders were there to hear the stories.

"I find that every story I hear from a family dealing with lead issues surprises me." says Kathy Schuth, Near Northwest Neighborhood Executive Director. "It may be a small barrier or a new experience, but the reality of addressing that problem in your family can be very complicated. So we have a lot to learn from the stories that neighbors tell."

Neighbors say they have a lot to learn as well.

They were asked to write down questions to help leaders direct future meetings.

Questions included: Who will test my soil? What's the best way to get rid of lead paint?

Community members say they are glad the issue has renewed energy, but there is still a need for more education.

Corey Smith is from South Bend but has family in Flint. He does not want South Bend to have the same mistakes.

"The community reaction has been really good," says Smith. "It's nice to see the community out and being concerned. The city just needs more awareness programs."

A main focus of the latest lead action plan is increasing awareness about testing for kids.

Children under 7 can get free blood testing at the St. Joseph County Health Department.

Community members say they want the plan to focus on the entire family.

"You want to focus on the kids, but if you don't take care of the parents and the elderly nobody's going to be there to take care of the kids," says Smith.

Another big issue is the problem of funding, but there has been progress since the last lead meeting.

The South Bend Housing authority is applying for a grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grant would be used towards testing and remediation.

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