The Need for this “Nehemiah Transformation” Program

In Zip Code 60612, a serious need exists in 2010 (as it was in 2009) for grass-roots social intervention programs to stimulate business growth and create community-based jobs, combat school delinquency and dropouts, eliminate drugs and gang violence, and foster new meaning and hope to lives of at-risk persons, particularly African-Amercian children and young adults, living in a Federal Empowerment Zone, Renewal Community and/or Enterprise Community.

A case in point: this area is one of the main intra-neighborhoods-merging points where youth gang-related violence and drug activity occurs on some of the street corners day and night. Moreover, Interpersonal violence and drug/alcohol use by youth in this area is a regular, nearly obsessive topic of discussion in barbershops, churches, street corners, pool halls, on radio talk shows, in taverns, and at family dinner tables. One of the most prevalent visible forms of violence, evidenced by a rise in the premature death many children and youth between the ages of 10 and 20 years, takes place right on the school grounds or on the sidewalk outside a victim’s home.

What happens outside of Zip Code 60612 in the manner of “gang activity” has a profound impact on the sensitivities and reactions take on a variety of forms: verbal, psychological, and sexual forms of assualt, gang violence, bullying, gender harassment, and the use of children by grown adult criminals to do their dirty work. Peer pressure also introduces young individuals to alcohol and drug abuse and bullying, making these individuals susceptible to violence.

To make matters more troublesome, Juvenile Justice Courts in Chicago are overwhelmed with cases, and clogged to the point of ineffectiveness. A staggering 70 percent of all juvenile cases are being dismissed due to lack of prosecutorial resources. This type of revolving door justice fosters cynicism about the court, makes the public and crime victims mad, and teaches young people that justice is a joke.

Since an estimated 37.5% of the residents of Zip Code 60612 (factoring in Juveniles of all ages with their family members) live below the poverty level, and with an increasing concentration of poverty level, and with an increasing concentration of poverty projected for 2011 thru 2015 due to bad economic times and job loss, this concentration leads to a lack of role models and supportive institutions for young people. The problems of a lack of role models, especially for African-American male youth, is exacerbated by the high numbers of female headed households where a father is not regularly present.