Neighborhood Dispute Settlement originated as the Human Relations Council of Greater Harrisburg in 1968 in response to difficulties experienced by African American students at John Harris High School. HRC/GH applied for and was granted tax exempt status by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in 1974. In 1978, HRC/GH began a community mediation service to address the increasing use of violence to settle disagreements in the community. Community volunteers were trained as mediators and moved to reorganize elements of the HRC/GH as Neighborhood Dispute Settlement of Dauphin County.
In 1993, the City of Harrisburg Police Department instituted a program of referrals to NDS when appropriate as an alternative to citing individuals. Subsequently, NDS was recognized across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as providing a successful approach to reducing the need for police intervention in community disputes and reducing the associated costs.
In 1995, NDS collaborated with the Dickinson School of Law (DSL) to offer mediation to the residents of Cumberland County. DSL discontinued its participation in the next year, but the service was seen as essential by the West Shore Council of Governments and Cumberland County, which provide funding for NDS' programs. In 1998, Neighborhood Dispute Settlement of Dauphin County officially changed its name to Neighborhood Dispute Settlement to reflect its regional service area.
NDS continues to take referrals from police departments and district justices in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties as well as local bar associations, legal aid offices, and government agencies.
NDS receives support from local municipalities in the form of grants, which must be applied for and approved annually. The continuing support of Dauphin County, the City of Harrisburg, and many boroughs and townships in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties provides ongoing evidence of the value placed upon its services by law enforcement, district justices, and the political leadership of these communities. The number of municipalities supporting NDS has grown steadily over the years as its outreach efforts make its services more available and effective at the local level.
In recent years, NDS has worked closely with the Social Services divisions of Dauphin County, especially in providing input and assisting with its initiative to provide a comprehensive spectrum of care in the county. NDS is an active participant in the New Beginnings (a.k.a. Systems of Care) and the Collaborative Council within the Social Services Department. Through these organizations, NDS takes advantage of a comprehensive network of government, non-profit, and private sector service providers to further its own goals of providing non-violent dispute resolution alternatives for at-risk individuals and groups.
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Neighborhood Dispute Settlement originated…