"Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities" forum focused programming to engage young people, including several new initiatives launched by CHA and the Chicago Dept. of Children and Youth Services.
On Oct. 17, 2008, the Building Successful
Mixed-Income Communities forum series, co-hosted by MPC and the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, focused on community building, with a
specific emphasis on youth programming and engagement in CHA communities.
Paul Carlisle, vice president at Chase Bank and a member of
MPC’s Board of Governors, moderated the panel discussion, which featured opening
remarks from Lewis Jordan, CEO of CHA, and Mary Ellen
Caron, commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Children and Youth Services
(CYS). Pam David, executive director of the San Francisco-based
Walter and Elise Haas Fund, provided the national perspective, while local,
on-the-ground experiences were shared by Rachel McDonald Romo,
executive director of SER-Jobs for Progress, and Alonzo
director of programs at Chicago Park District.
began by thanking “those who
work with young people everyday,” and expressed CHA’s need for “help with the
people side” of the Plan for Transformation. Emphasizing that residents are the
“most valued resource” of the Plan, he reiterated his priority to help children
in CHA housing break the poverty cycle through education and employment
opportunities that allow them access to alternative housing options when they
turn 18. In order to achieve this, he said, “we have to be clear on how we
develop programs and facilitate the process of access and participation,” which
requires understanding the population. Mr.
commended the city’s CYS department, Chicago Park District, as well as SER-Jobs
for Progress, for its work with CHA youth. He stressed the need for continued
partnerships with these and other organizations.
Commissoner Caron outlined Chicago’s changing youth demographics
and how CYS is tailoring programming to address these changes.
The city has experienced increases in the number of children and youth on the
outer edges of its boundary, and a shift in the number of children living in
poverty from the central city to these outer-edge communities. Both the Plan for
Transformation and increase of Latino children citywide play a role in the
changing demographics, and CYS is encouraging agencies to move into the
neighborhoods where youth are.
However, funding is a significant challenge – 60 percent of CYS’ $200
million budget is allocated to programs for children under the age of five and
there are very few slots in other programs compared to the number of youth,
especially those age 13 to 17. Still, Dr. Caron emphasized the importance of
going out into CHA communities to find youth and “figure out what will attract
and engage them.”
Pam David commended Chicago as a model for San
Francisco’s public housing redevelopment efforts, despite the differences in
scale. Ms. David described several unique initiatives in San Francisco –
including HOPE SF and Communities of Opportunity – which are
aimed at involving residents in redeveloping their communities and improving the
service delivery system for families. It is important to “know what role you can
play and where you need partners to step in,” she said, stressing the need for
partnerships between local government agencies and philanthropic organizations
that have flexible funds to fill service gaps. Ms. David also described San
Francisco’s Dept. of Children, Youth, and their Families (DCYF) Children’s
, which provides up
to $18 million each year (from property tax set-asides) for programs and services
for children age 0 to 17. Despite all of these resources, ongoing challenges
remain, such as how to institutionalize changes in service delivery and build
capacity of community-based organizations in the neediest communities.
Stressing San Francisco’s commitment to
ensuring people can go through “no wrong door” in their search for information
about how and where to get services,
Ms. David outlined strategies for aligning and coordinating the
activities, outreach and communications of the many departments and stakeholders
involved in service delivery.
Rachel McDonald Romo described SER-Jobs for Progress’ partnership
with CHA, CYS, and Sylvan Learning to provide programs for CHA youth at the
former Henry Horner homes.
Program priorities include connecting youth to their
community and city, and helping them make plans for the future by integrating
education with career development. Ms. Romo stressed how critical the
self-discovery process is for youth, and pointed out the ”wrong person working
with young people will turn them away.”
Alonzo Williams reiterated the Chicago Park
goal to provide
recreational opportunities in a safe environment for all
including CHA youth. Mr. Williams described the district’s partnership with CHA
to provide more than 1,700 vouchers for CHA youth to participate in summer 2008
programs, which was recently expanded to provide vouchers for year round
programs. Mr. Williams emphasized “we don’t distinguish between CHA and non-CHA
residents,” but explained the Park District does do outreach to youth and CHA
families in the 20 parks adjacent to or within CHA communities to get them
involved in programming.
Q&A session followed the panelists’ presentations, which such issues as
access to social service systems, improvements to parks and recreational
facilities near mixed-income communities, and building diversity and interaction
in these communities through youth engagement. Mr. Jordan thanked panelists and
attendees for “reminding me why I do what I do everyday.”
Summaries of other Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities
forums and related publications
are available on MPC’s
312-863-6006, to be added to the invitation list for future
MPC research assistant Elizabeth Frantz contributed to this