Jean Hill is offering a tour of Chicago you will not likely find listed in any travel guide.
Hill said she sees Englewood as a place filled with crises because of the levels of violence, truancy and teenage pregnancies.
“We want people on the outside to see our community the way we see it daily,” said Hill. “We want bankers, organizations – people who can come in and want to give back in someway.”
But Hill has been facing an uphill battle in getting transportation for the tour and has reached out to churches with no luck.
For over 40 years, Hill has been a resident Englewood. Discouraged by the rise of homelessness and students struggling and failing in school with no resources, Hill and Helen Arnold Massey, a Chicago Public School colleague, focused on improving the quality of life in Englewood by founding Imagine Englewood If more than 10 years ago.
“We both noticed that there were too many families going through crises and there were no resources for them, and we wanted to be apart of trying to make life better for them,” said Hill.
A 2007 Chicago Department of Public Health study found elevated blood lead levels in 89 percent of children aged three and under, and 76 percent among children aged six and under.
Despite a 16.8 percent decrease in crime from January to June 2009 compared to 2008 reported by the Chicago Police Department, Hill said the level of violence is taking a toll on residents, particularly the youth. During the walk-through she wants to generate ideas for projects and resources to create a much-needed community center.
Over the course of two hours, Hill’s tour will travel through parts of west and east Englewood where she will discuss issues affecting certain blocks. One of the biggest problems she wants to draw attention to, is the increasing presence of abandoned buildings.
“And it’s a lot of vacant lots. More than you could ever think about in the community,” said Hill. “It’s just a lot of hang out places [with] people sitting around without jobs. It’s that type of thing. It’s just a depressing community.”
Hill will be hosting a roundtable to discuss solutions and observations with participants following the tour.
Hill is confident and determined to go forward with the tour, believing transportation will be provided well in advance and acknowledges it will take patience to create the amount of help she believes is needed in Englewood. This approach to community improvement has been used in Little Village in Pilsen where there are tours of toxic sites in the neighborhood aimed at raising awareness about problems and seeking solutions.
“I know it’s not going to happen all at one time,” said Hill. “We might have to have some ongoing tours to be able to reach the people who can really help to make a difference in this community.”
For more information about the Englewood Walk-Through or Imagine Englewood If contact: Jean Hill at 773-778-1304 or www.imaginenglewoodif.org.