Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Abstract

Over the course of the Fall 2009 semester, students in the Community Project Design and Management class worked with members of West Bloomington to recognize the growing needs within the community. Along with the African-American Focus Workgroup (AAFW) and the West Bloomington Revitalization Partnership (WBRP), the students completed Phase 1 of an African-American resources and needs assessment resulting in this report. This document reflects needs, wants, and hopes of the West Bloomington community and the AAFW. Comprehensively, this document is meant to serve as a bridge between community members and AAFW members.

As Bloomington as a whole continues to grow and expand, some members within the community feel the difficulty of being left out of development. Therefore, the project‟s purpose was to help ascertain the assets and deficiencies within the West Bloomington neighborhood with the participation of community members, and to help the AAFW integrate their goals with those of the WBRP. This report can aid future efforts and provide useful information in the development of the West Bloomington area.

The report includes a brief review of the literature considering race, education, income, age, public space, housing, civil society, and community-based participatory research. The report also includes sections outlining the research methods used, the research findings along the same themes used in the literature review, a discussion of limitations and barriers to research, and conclusions and recommendations.

Appendices include Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol for ethical treatment and protection of research participants, definition of the study area for drawing out Census data, and a Survey Design and Administration Protocol Handbook to aid in administering surveys drafted for AAFW member organizations to use with their staff and volunteers, patrons, and the general public.

Student researchers analyzed public data and local reports to understand the background and demographics of the West Bloomington community. Reports consulted include these topics: housing conditions and issues; food justice; Census data on race, income, and age; community and economic development; and education statistics for District 87 and West Bloomington schools.

Through various focus groups, four common themes appeared: the need for greater communication between and among local organizations and community members; the need for additional activities, especially for young people; a lack of accessibility to various services offered by (or in) the City of Bloomington and surrounding areas; and distressed amenities. Communication can be strengthened between the WBRP and the AAFW, between West Bloomington community members and the City of Bloomington, and among all of these groups and members.

Focus group findings also show that the West Bloomington community and organizations serving it do not offer activities to people of all age ranges. In addition, all focus groups shared comments about transportation issues within West Bloomington. Regarding distressed amenities, focus group participants brought up issues concerning poor housing conditions, inadequate amenities at local parks, and old infrastructure in need of repair or replacement.

Findings from key informant interviews also acknowledged several areas for enhancement within the West Bloomington community. Within the community, apathy and a lack of respect among residents were identified as negative attributes coupled with a perceived lack of police presence in the area. Residents linked these attributes to a fear of crime, and specifically, drug dealing, prostitution, and gang activity and recruitment. Resource collaboration and greater awareness of available resources also are viewed as necessary enhancements within the community and those serving it.

West Bloomington residents serving as key informant interviewees identified issues of homelessness, overcrowded housing facilities, and a lack of affordable housing. Some interviewees expressed a desire for better notification of neighborhood events. Several interviewees mentioned a desire for better communication between the City of Bloomington and West Bloomington community and a better working relationship with the police department. Additionally, multiple interviewees discussed the importance of education, including the need for more job training and literacy programs.

This report includes conclusions and recommendations based on findings from key informant interviews, focus groups, local and public data review, and past and future surveys. These recommendations are broken down into three categories focusing on the City of Bloomington, the West Bloomington neighborhood, and youth.

City-related recommendations include the following:

  • The Bloomington Police Department can increase its visible presence in the West Bloomington neighborhood by providing foot patrol.
  • The City of Bloomington should develop a plan for addressing infrastructure needs in the West Bloomington area.
  • The Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System can evaluate the current mass transit bus routes for West Bloomington.
  • Improved civic awareness and education can increase residents‟ skills and abilities to address grievances and development issues within their community.

Neighborhood recommendations advise the following:

  • Primarily, communication among all stakeholders needs to be improved.
  • Stakeholders can increase awareness of available services, programs, and resources that can benefit community members.
  • A community fair can be held within the West Bloomington neighborhood.
  • A feasibility study should be performed for a multi-purpose community center to be located in the West Bloomington neighborhood.

The youth recommendations suggest the following:

  • Encourage The Bloomington Boys and Girls Club to determine if additional services could be added to benefit the teen youth of West Bloomington.
  • Increase the availability of summer programs to benefit both working parents and children.
  • Explore effective strategies for identifying and dealing with barriers to development, especially those that apply to youth and crime.
  • Stakeholders can collaborate on a campaign to bring awareness and encourage action around the need for more volunteer mentors, especially male mentors who are needed for West Bloomington male youth.

In conclusion, this report sheds some light on the needs, wants, assets, and resources of the West Bloomington community. It is our hope that this report will serve as an impetus for enhanced relationships among the AAFW, the WBRP, West Bloomington residents, and the City of Bloomington, as well as provide information and materials to aid in future development.



Comments

The students of Sociology 477: Community Project Design and Management wish to express our sincere appreciation to Sharon Mills for her assistance in preparing this report. We also extend our gratitude to members of the African-American Focus Workgroup (AAFW) and the West Bloomington Revitalization Partnership (WBRP), State Farm, Inc., and State Farm Bank, who partnered with us and aided us along the way. In addition, we are grateful to AAFW and WBRP members Felicia Shaw, Tony Jones, and Heather Paul whose knowledge of the West Bloomington area and support for the project helped us greatly in accumulating the appropriate data. Also, our efforts would not have been possible without the sincere generosity of Bonnie Lentz of the Jesus Coffee House, and the members of the West Bloomington community, who made this project possible through their interest and participation. It is for you this report was created in hopes of developing stronger communities and a better quality of life for everyone in the future.

Sixteen students completed Sociology 477 under the direction of course instructor Sharon Mills. Students contributed to all stages of the project including project planning and Institutional Review Board protocol development, research implementation, data analysis, report writing and editing, presentation development and delivery, and event planning. Sociology 477 students deserve recognition for their participation and perseverance throughout the semester to complete the project and this report. Those students wishing to be identified are listed as authors of this report.

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