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Charles Nance 

Are at-risk youth taking our front porches? Not exactly, but Nance's message strikes at the core of his campaign: People want to feel safe wherever they live.

Nance — a former Richmond School Board member — is a proponent of alternative schools for the city's most troubled students. Instead of kicking them out, he vows he'll work closely with Chesterfield and Henrico counties to create regional alternative schools, akin to the regional Maggie L. Walker Governor's School.

One alternative school, run by Community Education Partners, opened its doors in the city this year. "It's a beginning," Nance says. "But it means those particular kids won't be standing that afternoon on the street corner dealing drugs."

Nance says the other, equally critical piece of the puzzle has to do with the families of at-risk children, which, in most cases, are headed by single mothers living in the city's public housing projects. Nance says there should be more outreach.

"At least half of them suffer from undiagnosed clinical depression," he says of single moms. "It's a mental health problem as much as anything else. So if they can't somehow make their kids get up and go to school, we know why. If they can't come out and appear at the PTA meeting, we know why."

Too often, Nance says, Richmond gets caught up in thinking that "brick-and-mortar" projects are the solution. But building stadiums and arts centers won't draw anyone back downtown if people feel unsafe, he insists. "Until we address all of these underlying social problems, of which crime is one, then the other plans will fail."

He recalls last summer dropping his daughter off at Theatre IV for a show, and seeing lewd behavior in the street.

On the steps of a nearby Broad Street building, there were "six to eight people of questionable mental capacity who were sort of sprawled out on the steps — bright sunshine shining right on them — involved in some kind of sexual groping thing. I mean it was gross. I was thinking, We're building an arts building to bring suburban families back downtown and here's one Fan guy that doesn't want to bring his kids down there."

He continues, "If you don't address the underlying social issues as a community none of the brick-and-mortar plans will succeed."



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