THE LAUNCH OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD GRANTS INITIATIVE
The vision of Habitat for Humanity is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. However, in different communities this can come to mean different things. Each local Habitat office has the opportunity to develop strategies and programs that tackle issues surrounding affordable housing in the areas they serve.
Working on a neighborhood level, Habitat Chicago strives to develop programs that best address the needs of a given community while emphasizing its existing resources and assets. We know that neighborhoods with better connected residents and stronger social capital lead to a greater ability for resident groups to advocate for their needs. We also know that significant community developments build from existing points of strength, and that residents are truly any neighborhood’s best assets.
To support and fund more resident-led projects in West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing, Habitat Chicago is rolling out the Neighborhood Grants Initiative this summer. Having evolved out of previous programs that focused on neighborhood beautification, such as Block Builds and the Neighbors United Block Improvement Projects, this program puts resources into the hands of residents who want to carry out projects in their communities.
Between 2012 and 2016, Habitat Chicago carried out six block builds in West Pullman. These one-day events brought together volunteers and neighborhood residents to carry out home repairs and maintenance projects such as painting, landscaping, and waste removal.
These Block Builds sparked new ideas for other neighborhood improvements and created excitement and a sense of community for West Pullman residents. Looking at how Habitat Chicago could support the ideas and excitement of residents, we developed the Neighbors United Block Improvement Projects.
Neighbors United Block Improvement Projects
As part of a pilot period for a new form of programming, the Neighbors United Block Improvement Projects were designed to provide opportunities for neighbors to connect with one another, to build resiliency within neighborhoods, and to complete physical beautification projects.
Neighbors within West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing applied for projects and executed them, with some guidance from Habitat Chicago. During this initial pilot period, five projects were carried out, including outdoor flower planting, holiday decorating, block club signage, an intergenerational block party, and a back-to-school community celebration.
After the pilot period, Habitat Chicago sought to expand the program so that more projects could receive funding. By changing the structure of the program to that of a small grants initiative, Habitat Chicago could distribute more resources and support more resident-led initiatives. Thus, the Neighborhood Grants Initiative was born.
Neighborhood Grants Initiative
The Neighborhood Grants Initiative funds projects that bring neighbors together, improve the physical environment of a block, and develop pride and excitement for a neighborhood. These projects build on the networks of relationships already present in a community, while encouraging civic participation and enthusiasm for the neighborhood. Habitat Chicago has high hopes for this program and the ways it will support our vision of a Chicago where everyone has a decent place to live.
One of the key differences between the Neighborhood Grants Initiative and past programming is the addition of a pre-application workshop. Habitat Chicago wants to equip residents with the tools and resources needed to feel ready to develop, plan, and execute their projects. Training participants in project management, this workshop includes information on communication and marketing strategies, team development, and financial planning and budgeting.
The following projects have been selected to receive grants this summer:
1. Traffic circle clean-up and landscaping – Neighbors will clean and landscape three traffic circles in their neighborhood.
2. Community block party – Neighbors will organize a community block party to socialize, eat, play cards, and dance together.
3. One Love Basketball Tournament – Neighbors will organize a basketball tournament, including a barbeque and police Roll Call. Children also will paint the courts prior to the event.
4. A social media campaign for online information sharing – Neighbors will develop a community grassroots broadcasting channel to share community news, events, resources, and to talk about the issues that matter most to them.
5. Porch and home repairs – Neighbors will paint porches, landscape around the houses, and clean up the block.
6. Home awning power washing – Neighbors will power wash their home awnings.
7. Tree planting – Neighbors will plant trees and grass seeds, landscaping the parkway green lawn spaces in their neighborhood.
8. Solar lights and block sign installation – Neighbors will install solar lights in the front lawns or parkways of 15 homes, in addition to adding back panels to a block sign previously installed.
9. Community garden signage – Neighbors will install signage for a new community garden.
Each year, we hope to award $24,000 - $36,000 in grants, funding 30-45 resident-led projects. If you’d like to learn more about how you can fund a neighborhood grant to help your Chicago neighbors transform their visions to reality, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn about how you can apply for a neighborhood grant, visit our web page or contact us at email@example.com.