Feb. 7, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 9

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    University gets HUD grant for outreach

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    The University will increase its activities in the Woodlawn neighborhood with a $399,999 grant recently awarded to the Office of Community Affairs by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant was made through HUD’s Community Outreach Partnership Center.

    “We could not be more pleased,” said Hank Webber, Vice President for Community and Government Affairs. “As a major South Side employer and economic anchor, we want to continue to work in partnership with many public and private organizations to improve the quality of life on the South Side of our city. We need to be good community citizens, and we need to create communities that are attractive to students, staff and faculty. This grant will help us do that.”

    Growing numbers of middle-income families, including University faculty and staff, are moving into Woodlawn. New construction and rehabbing can be seen in many blocks and there have been major improvements in neighborhood schools. However, the Woodlawn neighborhood still faces numerous challenges after a long period of economic decline and population loss.

    Sonya Malunda, Assistant Vice President and Director for Community Affairs, will assist Webber in rolling out the initiative, which is named The Woodlawn Community Partnership Program. “We will focus on three functional themes that are directly responsive to currently identified community needs: social services and educational support, an asthma center and public safety,” Malunda said.

    The School of Social Service Administration will provide technical assistance to human service organizations located throughout the Woodlawn community, including professional development for human services professional staff, customized consultation and the placement of students in neighborhood organizations. SSA in collaboration with neighborhood organizations will create and publish a social services resource directory for community residents.

    At the McCosh Elementary School, SSA will provide social work interns for clinical assessments of the need of children and families. SSA will identify and coordinate social services and evaluate their effectiveness. The SSA Professional Development Program will offer a series of clinical and administrative seminars on issues ranging from working with parents and teachers of learning disabilities to strategies for governance for non-for-profit organizations.

    In a program initiated five years ago, the University Community Service Center staff, individual students and student groups work to develop interdependent partnerships with many community-based organizations, schools and churches in Woodlawn. UCSC staff work closely with agencies to provide them with much needed volunteer support. Students work hand-in-hand with the community to offer recreational activities for youth, tutoring and mentoring for teens, and technical assistance for smaller agencies

    The University Asthma Center will offer asthma education for community residents through the training of nine resident asthma peer educators, practical asthma education for the adult staff at every Chicago Public school in the Woodlawn neighborhood and an in-office preceptorship with University faculty or postdoctoral fellows for one-on-one education in asthma management.

    Public safety initiatives include the recently expanded service boundaries of the University Police to 64th Street. Using Chicago Police Department reports, the South East Chicago Commission will conduct daily crime monitoring to provide law enforcement agencies, neighborhood organizations and residents with information about crime patterns.

    The Chicago Police Department Crime Prevention Officers will present criminal awareness materials to children in local public schools and by request will visit neighborhood residences and make suggestions for improved home safety. An extension of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program will more effectively guide victims and witnesses through the criminal justice system, provide transportation to and from court and explain court proceedings and rulings.

    “Woodlawn residents have shown strong support for partnerships with individuals and institutions beyond the neighborhood’s geographic boundaries. Old antagonisms have faded with time, and we are all working together in a pragmatic spirit of cooperation,” Malunda explained. “Woodlawn is becoming a mixed-income community again.”

    In the late 1980s, the Woodlawn community requested the University’s assistance to help in its revitalization. In response, the University donated 8.8 acres for the construction of a large, mixed-income housing development with the rest of the land donated to the community. The University also has made loan guarantees to community groups in an effort to expand their services and provided technical support to the development of the 63rd Street corridor.

    The Center for School Improvement at the University worked with two Woodlawn schools to improve their overall academic success rate. The University also has been extensively involved in working to develop technology transfer skills, and University students work as teaching assistants in community schools.

    “We have had very productive partnerships with many institutions and organizations in the community,” Webber said. The University has recently worked with the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation, the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, and the Neighborhood Rejuvenation Fund on the Columbia Pointe housing development project on 63rd Street.

    “We are uniquely positioned to assist in vital programs to redevelop the neighborhood and empower the community,” Webber said.