Long-standing impact of divestment in communities – NBC Chicago
A Chicago community advocate remembers West Woodlawn as it was in the 1950s and 1960s – a vibrant and vibrant community.
Siri Hibbler, CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, paints a similar picture of 1970s East Garfield Park.
âWe had bowling alleys, skating rinks,â she said. “Anything a kid wanted to do, he could do in Garfield Park, he could do on the West Side of Chicago.”
Now both communities see many vacant lots.
But what happened?
Some point to the Chicago riots of 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and that was not the only reason.
Closing factories like Brach’s and Western Electric meant job losses for the middle class.
A 2017 report from the University of Illinois at the Great Cities Institute of Chicago found a 26% drop in manufacturing jobs for young African Americans and a 47% loss among Hispanic youth between 1960 and 2015.
Then there were government policies, such as the demolition of abandoned buildings, which was adopted by some neighbors.
âIt becomes a haven for gangs, drugs and the homeless, prostitution, and at one point it overwhelms the neighborhood,â one resident said in 2012.
Since 2008, the city of Chicago has demolished more than 5,300 homes, according to the Department of Buildings. Contacted by NBC 5, a spokesperson declined to speculate on the number of vacant lots in the city today.
The demolition that left land vacant was touted as a way to bring peace to struggling neighborhoods, but some say it had the unintended consequence of stifling economic development.
âSo the people who came to me and said, I want to come to Garfield Park, they see the challenges,â Hibbler said. I want to come to the West Side, but there’s nowhere to put a business because it’s all wasteland.
No new business in the neighborhood doesn’t mean more jobs, and several studies have found that fewer jobs can lead to more crime.
According to the Justice Policy Institute and Heartland Alliance, one-third of people incarcerated in the United States said they were unemployed when they were arrested, and people living in poverty are 293% more likely to be victims violent crimes than those with higher incomes.
Anti-violence activist Eddie Bocanegra says these people are essential to making communities safer.
âIf you are able to involve individuals and expose them to something different, you allow them to be part of the solution,â he said.