Mar. 18—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The identity of Johnstown's Prospect neighborhood will change significantly in the coming days when residents begin to move out of the public housing units at Prospect Homes.
There will be fewer people walking the streets, attending churches and taking their children to day care.
They will instead become a diaspora spread throughout the city, forced to move after Johnstown Housing Authority announced plans to close the units due to structural issues and gave residents 30 days to relocate.
Deacon Jeffrey Wilson, of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Prospect, said the events are "life-changing" for the people.
"Our prayers are with and we support all the people in our community," Wilson said. "I live in this community, so I know the majority of the people that we're talking about personally. We just hope that the city housing authority, the city itself does everything possible to support them, but also must have a plan going forward for this community."
There are four churches in the neighborhood — Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Bethel AME Church, Jefferson Memorial First Born Church and Stevens Memorial Holy Church.
"People from the Prospect community here walk to those churches," Wilson said. "They're part of the services. They're part of the fabric of the church, the kitchen ministries, the children's choirs, for example, the regular choir."
Bethel AME Church Pastor the Rev. Lloyd King said no residents of Prospect Homes currently attend his church.
"But a couple of people I do know that stay up there," King said. "One person, he told me he's not worried about relocation and all that. Then there are some others that they worry about where they're going to go and everything else."
About three children from the housing project attend the faith-based Kolorful Kids Daycare at Stevens Memorial Holy Church.
"We have a few, not a lot," said James Britt, the day care's manager. "I believe it's going to affect us negatively in the fact that it's not as easy to get there now. I'm not sure about the parents' transportation situation, but prayerfully they'll be able to still make it up here without too much interference or having to inconvenience anyone else. We're just hoping that's it."
Britt said the people he has talked to from Prospect Homes are "pretty upset."
"They don't understand how or why things happened so abruptly and why they have to leave like that," Britt said. "A lot of them have roots up there. They raised their children there. It's one of the more peaceful communities in the city. A lot of older people are up there. They are settled, and they've been there for a while.
"It's just a good atmosphere to grow up in, from what they're saying. They don't want to be relocated some place that they don't really know about and they're not familiar with the people. They're a little apprehensive about that sort of thing."
JHA gave residents 30-day notices to vacate on March 9.
No specific reason was publicly provided as to why the 110 units in 19 buildings were being closed, but JHA Executive Director Michael Alberts said the decision was made "due to preliminary reports received during an ongoing structural inspection."
The housing authority said it will pay for the residents' moving costs.
When asked if JHA plans to put the displaced people into local hotels, Alberts responded: "Not at this time. The current plan is to get everyone relocated into permanent housing options, whether transferred by us into another public housing community, leased up using a Section 8 voucher with a participating landlord, Prospect residents making their own arrangements, or us assisting residents with finding a different option."