Issues & Programs
PROGRAMS: The Development Council’s annual strategic plan defines the organization’s programs. The strategic plan begins with a focus on community needs, and those needs that fit the Council’s mission and resources become programs. The West Humboldt Park Development Council’s mission is to be a catalyst for family, community, and economic development in the community of West Humboldt Park.
The community of West Humboldt Park contains many assets. Once a prime employer of manufacturing workers, the area is ringed by once active businesses such as the old Western Electric, Sears Roebuck, Helene Curtis, and by many other such facilities. Those formerly employed at these facilities lived in sturdy single family homes and two-flats, which remain West Humboldt Park assets to this day. Two prominent parks exist in Humboldt Park, including Humboldt Park itself and Garfield Park. The area is about 15 minutes to the Loop, and is blessed with sturdy, attractive single-family homes and two-flats. Life in West Humboldt Park, however, is not what it used to be.
All of the manufacturing businesses described above have left West Humboldt Park. Unemployment among the community’s residents remains high, and many working-age residents have given up looking for work. Some resort to illicit sources of income, including drug sales and crime. Until a few years ago, the 11th Police District which encompasses a swath of West Humboldt Park had the highest per capita crime statistics in the city. School achievement in the area was far less than stellar, and poverty was rampant. Unfortunately, many of the area’s residents felt powerless to enable positive accomplishments in the area. Community planning with significant input from local residents was not deemed to be realistic by the people who lived in the community. Therefore, lack of community planning, economic development, and a host of quality of life issues all shaped the type of programming undertaken by the Council.
Programs of the Council, as a result, include affordable housing for first-time homebuyers, through the Council’s affiliate, First Community Land Trust of Chicago; the Block Club Network, which consists of residents who worked with the Council to establish approximately 35 new block clubs in the neighborhood who undertake a variety of locally empowered change initiatives in the area focused on improving the quality of life in West Humboldt Park; the Healthy Community Project, which includes a campaign which enlists the support of nearby hospitals to combat the high incidence of breast cancer among local women and includes an exercise program and healthy eating initiatives among other initiatives; the Chicago Avenue Streetscape Program which, in partnership with the City of Chicago, will begin a large project that will make Chicago Avenue between Kedzie and Pulaski more attractive to shoppers and local merchants; The Community Center Project, which worked with residents and the 27th Ward Alderman to attract a YMCA facility to the area with programs appealing to both youth and adults; Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Advisory Panel, which advises the alderman and the City of appropriate use of TIF dollars spent in the neighborhood; and the Business & Economic Development program designed to revitalize the business district by providing technical assistance to existing businesses and to market to potential new businesses through the West Humboldt Park Business Association.