Last week City Council approved its One Year Action Plan, allocating about $2.7 million from several federal funding sources to improve neighborhood life in specific areas of Evanston: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, HOME Investment Partnerships Program and Emergency Shelter Grant funds.

Additional funding may be obtained through private funds, matching grants or by leveraging these funds, the City said, adding that the new funds will also be used with current funds available for affordable housing and other neighborhood improvements.

In administering the funds, the City says it will follow three federal statutory goals of providing decent housing, providing a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, all of which are consistent with the City’s strategic plan of creating “the most livable city in America.”

Decent Housing

The City has several ongoing programs designed to assist homeowners with low and moderate incomes. For example, according to the City, through October of last year, 14 income-eligible households used the City’s down-payment-assistance program to purchase a home or condo. Grants of up to $6,500 per unit were available to some homeowners for weatherization and other projects to increase energy efficiency in their homes.

Foreclosures and high unemployment continue here as elsewhere, and the City is using grants under the Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) and the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program to help neighborhoods that have been destabilized by foreclosures and to address homelessness.

The City is using NSP2 funds to purchase 100 vacant or foreclosed properties on the south and west sides of the City, rehab them and return them to the market at affordable prices. In addition, plans are continuing for the construction of Emerson Square, a proposed development of some 60 affordable rental and ownership units on Emerson Street near Jackson Avenue.

Suitable Living Environment: Public Facilities
And Infrastructure\and Public Services

Projects slated for the west side include improving the street lighting (2100 block of Darrow Ave.), conducting an engineering study of the Church/Dodge corridor (for street and streetscape improvements), landscaping the new (east) section of Twiggs Park and installing neighborhood signs in the Church/Dodge area. Other projects are planting trees and paving alleys and replacing curbs and sidewalks. Oakton School is on the list to receive funds to improve its school garden and to create “public-access garden spaces” around the school grounds.

The City has allocated funds for public services that address problems of seniors, youth and abused spouses and their children:

• Case management services for seniors will be provided through Evanston Skokie Valley Senior Services and Meals at Home will continue to offer home-delivered meals to low-income home-bound senior or disabled residents.

• Youth services will be provided through Open Studio Project, Family Focus, Youth Action Ministry and the City itself.

• Open Studio Project’s Art & Action program uses, in the City’s words, “art therapy, journaling and other creative methods to enable youth to channel strong emotions of anger and frustration to positive, creative outlets.”

• The City will expand its Young Adult Job Training and Employment program to employ youth aged 14-25 year-round.

• Family Focus will offer a series of after-school sessions on “family/community life” and related issues to “at-risk teens, primarily African American and Hispanic, living in West Evanston,” according to the City.

• Youth Action Ministry will offer bus trips to colleges this summer to low-income high-school students, “as part of its work to expand the number of underprivileged youth who pursue higher education,” the City says.

• The Evanston/North Shore YWCA will continue to provide services for battered women and their children.

Other public services funded include the City’s graffiti removal program, legal services for residents aged 21 and under through the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, formerly known as the Evanston Community Defender, employment training through the Youth Job Center of Evanston and citizenship classes for Evanston’s Haitian population through the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti.

Expanding Economic Opportunities

To foster economic development in the CDBG and NRSA targeted areas, the City allocated funds to ECDC, the Evanston Community Development Corporation, the Technology Innovation Center’s Evanston Business Ownership Initiative, the Neighborhood Business Improvement Program and ECDC’s workforce training and community capacity program. These programs focus on providing financial assistance, business advice and training to small or emerging businesses and enterprises in those areas.