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West Side Community Reveals First-Ever Quality-of-Life Plan

12/26/2018, noon | Updated on 12/26/2018, noon
A Quality-of-Life Plan was recently released for Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the west side of the city. The plan was ...
LISC Chicago, Austin Coming Together, and community stakeholders from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood recently gathered to unveil the community’s first-ever Quality-of-Life Plan. Photo Caption: Vashon Jordan Jr.

West Side Community Reveals First-Ever Quality-of-Life Plan

BY KATHERINE NEWMAN

A Quality-of-Life Plan was recently released for Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the west side of the city. The plan was created through the collaboration of community residents, leaders, and stakeholders and it provides a comprehensive strategy to enhance the communities existing assets and create new opportunities that will improve the quality of life for people living and working in Austin.

A local nonprofit, Austin Coming Together, helped to develop a steering committee of 20 community leaders to lead the planning process.

“Since Austin Coming Together was first established in 2010, we’ve always understood the power of collaboration.

That is why we place great value on the care and time it takes to connect the dots between resources and those who need them. We remain dedicated to actualizing the vision of a thriving Austin community,” said Darnell Shields, executive director of Austin Coming Together.

The steering committee worked with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC Chicago) to develop a plan that would best serve the people of Austin.

LISC Chicago is a nonprofit organization that works with community partners and residents to help them transform their neighborhoods into resilient and inclusive places that are full of opportunity.

“For the first time, the Austin community came together to create a Quality-of-Life Plan that lays out a collective vision for the Austin community – designed by the residents and stakeholders themselves,” said Jack Swenson, neighborhood program officer, LISC

Chicago. “This is how capacity building is taken to the next level, with communities defining a vision for themselves in their own neighborhood where they feel empowered to take ownership over their futures.”

In order to create the Quality-of-Life plan, LISC Chicago brought together over 400 Austin community stakeholders including elected officials, residents and representatives from local organizations and businesses over the course of 18 months to discuss what they each saw as being the needs and priorities of Austin.

The Quality-of-Life Plan goes into detail about the communities demographics and states that 40.3 percent of households in Austin have an income of less than $25,000 a year, compared to Chicago’s average of 27.9 percent, and 81.7 percent of Austin households identify as black, compared to the Chicago Average of 30.6 percent.

As a result of research and community conversation, seven specific issue areas were addressed in the plan including economic development, education, housing, public safety, youth empowerment, civic engagement, and the community narrative.

Some of the goals of the Quality- of-Life Plan are to minimize the impact of violence in Austin, increase home ownership by Austin residents, create safe community spaces for young people, and increase enrollment in Austin public schools.

The MacArthur Foundation also has recognized the value of Austin and is contributing to the community planning efforts with a four-year, $1 million Vital Communities Grant that will assist Austin Coming Together and its task force leaders in implementing the recently released Quality-of-Life Plan, according to a press release to announce the plan.