William Rock teaches English and coaches football at Western Hills High School and has strong feelings for his students and the people who live in the much-maligned Las Vegas Trail neighborhood.
At Tuesday’s first meeting of the city-sponsored Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project, he grew weary of the steady barrage of negative comments being voiced.
He understood the meeting was meant to discuss the problems in the west Fort Worth neighborhood, but “we’ve got great kids here ... and great people here.”
“But bad things are going on.”
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More than 200 people attended the meeting, which was the first to help identify issues, ranging from crime to housing to substance abuse, in the Las Vegas Trail area. The problems were first brought to light in a Star-Telegram special report on child abuse in June.
The project team was put together by District 3 City Councilman Brian Byrd, who told the crowd that “we’re going to do something about this.”
He handed the microphone to project leader TD Smyers, CEO of the United Way of Tarrant County, who listened as one resident after another stood up and voiced their concerns. And there were plenty to choose from, ranging from public safety to affordable housing to education to community involvement.
“We are really scared,” said one woman, who lives near Calmont Avenue and Las Vegas Trail, or as she called it, “the four corners from hell.”
Another woman said that when she drove into an apartment complex, her car “was almost swallowed by a pothole.”
An openly frustrated resident said she has had trouble getting police to answer calls.
“Why do we have a police force if they do not come?” she asked.
A resident who volunteers at Western Hills Elementary School said simply, “We need some help. ... These children are precious.”
A homeowner upset with crime rates and lack of code enforcement said “people have gotten disgusted and moved.”
Rock, speaking toward the end of the session, said people need to understand how difficult life is for the children who live in Las Vegas Trail.
Hunger, he and other Western Hills coaches in attendance said, is a devastating problem. Rock said it’s especially difficult for the student-athletes he coaches, “who come to school to eat.”
He said many students are embarrassed to fill out the paperwork needed to qualify for the free lunch program.
Head football Coach Blake Moiklan said it’s not all of the kids he coaches, but acknowledged some don’t have the luxury of a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.
Rock said the coaching staff keeps bread, peanut butter and ramen noodles on hand to help feed the kids, adding that it would be great if the school could get a food pantry.
“It’s hard for them,” Rock said, both in the classroom and on the football field. “We can’t compete with a school like Aledo” when the kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Byrd said he was “blown away” by Rock’s comments about hunger and ended the meeting by saying they needed better representation of residents from the many apartment complexes in Las Vegas Trail at the next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at an undetermined location.