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Taking Back the Neighborhood: Positive Loitering

With recent press throughout the city, “Positive Loitering” is quickly becoming a buzz word in the community.

Having been an organizer of Neighborhood Nights in Edgewater, I feel that there is something more to say about positive loitering — not about the mission, but about the method.

I remember when I started talking to the “loiterers” on Thorndale, and I asked them what they thought of a new idea: “We’re gonna set up some tables here and play games together,” I said. Most laughed.

A month later we set up card tables, a tent and a grill. “I didn’t think you were serious,” a “loiterer” said to me.

We did this every Monday of the summer for fourteen consecutive weeks. People of all ages came, and suddenly, those who had once been called “the loiterers over there” were now participants in an inviting community event.IMG_0328

This may sound naive, so we conducted a survey of community partners and participants. Of those surveyed, over 90 percent expressed that the program should be continued next year. One respondent wrote, “I think it’s a great way to bring community members out into the open.”

Another respondent wrote that, “It’s great to see an organized effort to take back Thorndale by sending the message that the community cares.”

I know the success of our efforts were due to our volunteers and many community partners: the Edgewater Community Council, the local businesses on the 1100 block of Thorndale, the Broadway Armory Park District and Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th), who gave us amazing support.

Neighborhood Nights was, like all positive community accomplishments, a team effort. Every community member is really just a potential teammate in the effort to make our neighborhoods even better places to live.

Read more about positive loitering in Edgewater in this story from Lake Effect News.

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