Residents in South Chicago are hurting. They’ve lost their loved ones to COVID-19. They’ve been struggling to pay their bills. And they’re witnessing police violence on the news and in the streets.
To collectively grieve and heal from these traumas, neighbors are supporting each other, even from afar.
Grief groups are helping neighbors work through the stages of loss and a virtual parent group is teaching moms and dads how to talk to their kids about COVID-19. Neighbors have also cleaned up the community following protests and delivered food to seniors, all while convening hyper-local support teams that are ready to respond when a neighbor needs help.
These resources created by and for the community were made quickly available to neighbors thanks to the infrastructure of the South Chicago Neighborhood Network.
Led by Claretian Associates, the Neighborhood Network unites partners — including faith leaders, health care providers and local leaders — to provide critical services and find solutions to the community’s most pressing problems.
“Early on, I noticed that a lot of people were in need of services. Our area code has been hit hard. There’s the death of people and the death of normalcy — losing your job, not being able to interact with people,” said Tiarra Owens, program coordinator for Claretian Associates. “Knowing how I felt about that, I knew we needed to make support groups for others, to help people cope.”
As a predominantly Black neighborhood, South Chicago residents have been especially impacted by COVID-19 and the economic crisis it’s caused. Data shows that Black Chicagoans are contracting and dying from the coronavirus at disproportionately high rates. Business and industry closures have also left many people unemployed and struggling to pay their bills, causing additional financial hardship and stress.
On top of that, Black people nationwide are also grappling with the collective trauma from racism and police brutality, which was again brought to forefront following George Floyd’s murder in May.
For Tiarra, unifying South Chicago to heal from these challenges is personal.
She’s a life-long resident of South Chicago and a mother of a young girl growing up in the neighborhood.
“My family has been here for over 50 years. To me, there’s a difference when you work and live in a community,” Tiarra said. “It’s my duty to serve and do these things to make sure my community has the resources it needs.”
“To me, I don’t feel like I go to work. I feel like I’m at home taking care of my house,” she said about her work at Claretian Associates. “Like South Chicago is my house. And I get up to do what I need to do to make sure my house is intact.”