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How Homeowners Can Help Chicago Rebuild

By Tanya Svoboda
July 2020

In response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and fueled further by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among others, crowds of protestors have spilled into the streets demanding reform and an end to systematic racism in America. Though many of the protests are peaceful, there have been some that created significant property damage. A New York Times’ article notes, “Since the death of Mr. Floyd, protests have erupted in at least 140 cities across the United States, and the National Guard has been activated in at least 21 states.”

This civil unrest comes at a time when the city was already struggling with shutdowns related to COVID-19. Many business owners that were preparing to reopen are unable to because of the damage to their storefronts and surrounding area.

This is particularly hard to stomach in communities of color which, according to the Idaho State Journal article, US Cities Assess Damage From Rioting, Looting and Violence as Nationwide Unrest Continues, have been disproportionately hurt “not only in terms of infections but in job losses and economic stress.”

Homeowners nationwide are looking for ways to revitalize their communities. In Chicago, there are plenty of ways to contribute to the rebuilding of your community and the neighborhoods around you. Here are three ways Chicagoans are helping their communities recover.

1. Volunteer

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as noted in the Chicago Tribune article How to Help Chicago Recover After Looting and Damage to Businesses and Neighborhoods, has promised to deploy the Department of Streets and Sanitation along with other agencies to aid in the cleanup. But Chicagoans looking to make a direct and immediate impact can offer to sweep glass off the streets and sidewalk or contact local businesses to ask if they need assistance cleaning up their shop or restaurant.

Various groups throughout the city have organized clean-up efforts. While some of the initial clean up campaigns have already run, these groups are a great place to check in with for ongoing opportunities to assist.

  • My Block, My Hood, My City: Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, is signing up volunteers to help South Side businesses make repairs.
  • The Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce: President Felicia Slaton-Young is coordinating teams to work in small groups in an effort to be mindful of social distancing guidelines. The group is also collecting clean up supplies to assist in their efforts.
  • The Neighborhood Network Alliance: This group has partnered with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Rebuild Foundation, and others to provide recovery for South Shore neighborhoods.
  • The Chicago Family Pairing Program: Coordinated by On The Ground Chi, this program looks to pair Northsiders with individuals and families on the South and West sides who have lost access to grocery stores due to the civil unrest. On The Ground Chi will cover the cost of the groceries through donated funds and volunteers will deliver the supplies to the South and West Sides.
2. Donate

If you are unable to donate your time, there are a variety of organizations accepting monetary donations to help get the city back on its feet in a variety of ways. Here are a few:

  • Chicago Cares: Chicago Cares is touted as the city’s premier volunteer organization that strives to empower people to help bring diverse people together through a variety of volunteer opportunities. They are currently seeking monetary donations to fund community response efforts to assist areas affected by the recent looting.
  • Imagine Englewood: This not-for-profit organization aims to strengthen and empower the community in the Greater Englewood Donations will help aide neighborhood clean-up efforts.
3. Patronize

Shopping local was already a rising trend to support small businesses hurt by COVID-19 shutdowns. Increasing your efforts and focusing on stores, restaurants, and businesses also effected by civil unrest will help these neighborhood gems thrive again after clean-up efforts are complete.

Chicago Loop Alliance President Michael Edwards told the Chicago Tribune, “I think people can anticipate stores opening, but it’ll take a little while, and I think people could be patient,” he said. “Some of (the stores) might not be having the inventory that they’ve come to expect.”

Here are some ideas for helping local businesses as they rebuild:

  • Purchase gift cards: Your favorite restaurant may currently be boarded up but buying a gift card now for a dinner you’ll enjoy later, is a great way to get much-needed funds into the hands of those eatery owners.
  • Buy in advance: If a treasured local boutique, shop, or gallery lost their inventory in the civil unrest, putting an order in and paying for your favorite products now can help speed the spot’s recovery.

Chicagoans are resilient and opportunities abound to pitch in, speak up, and help-out as the city and its various neighborhoods rebuild.


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