Jo Ann Henton: “The alderman could bring scholarships and help all the kids who are trying to make it out of the community or who need help in the community and need scholarships for college. It’s costly now. It is very expensive to go to a university. A lot of kids can’t afford it, so they retreat to just going to work at a minimum wage job, and they give up. Search and find programs that will enable us like they do in the white communities. Our alderman has a lot of pull downtown; he holds a lot of positions. He should use his influence to help our kids get scholarships. Kids have nothing to do in the community. The park district has gone extremely high. It’s at a point you can’t afford to put your kids in summer camps. Get the kids off the streets. We have no baseball, no programs for the kids in the inner-city. We need a baseball program. Show the kids something other then bouncing a basketball. There is football, baseball, and bring soccer to the community. Bring programs where you can tutor kids, because kids are having a hard time in the community. They are just riding up and down the streets with nothing to do. Try to get jobs for the parents in the community, so they can help the kids. Instead of taking jobs out of the community bring jobs to the parents and our kids. There is a lot that can be done in the 29th Ward.”
Christina Tubbs: “The alderman could start a sports camp, and there could be a fee of, for instance, $10. They could purchase shirts, etc. The alderman could have golf, volleyball, tennis, and he could also start a bowling league here in Austin. Other communities have these things. They could do like a math-a-thon or spelling bee contest. Something that would motivate as well as a fun thing to do. These things are never thought of in our community. What about having programs during the summer featuring the best speller or the whiz kid in math? Why not an academic summerfest in Austin?”
Diane Henton: “Not only for the summer, but I think the community on the West Side in general, we don’t have any of the social services that the other areas have. Basically I know because I’ve been in social services myself for the last 26 years. The West Side of Chicago is lacking in a lot of services?”not just the youth, but seniors as well. We don’t involve our seniors or our youth like we used to have ‘sock hops.’ I think Hull House was trying to develop a program for seniors to provide child care, but for some strange reason it was programmed out of the area.
“I know seniors like to spend a lot of time with children and that would be a great asset to keep them vitalized as well as giving some of these young moms an opportunity to get out and seek employment. I think the social service area is lacking because we don’t have any community service program that can provide for our young people who are unfortunately involved in drugs and involved in gangs.
“When we were growing up, we had ‘sock hops’ and community-based skating programs. We have none of those things in our community. The Englewood area, those areas on the South Side, Chatham, they have a lot of services and a lot of recreational services for their children and for the seniors. We have nothing on the West Side.
“I’ve been a West Side resident all my life, and I have not seen our aldermen put any real investment in any of our communities. We have the one program, the largest program that I know about, which is Bethel. But Bethel is not really putting anything recreational back into the community. They are doing a lot of housing. And then you have Habilitative Systems, which is really more of a money-making organization than really putting services in the community.
“Basically we need good daycare, not just this home daycare. Because the home daycare people are not really licensed with DCFS like they should be or with Dept. of Human Services like they should be, because public aid has decided that a lot of the parents have to be off of public aid, that’s a easier route for them to go, rather than finding a full-time job, so they provide child care. But a lot of the children are not getting the full realm of what daycare is supposed to be about?”not just baby sitting. I mean you know in some of our other neighborhoods like in Oak Park we have kids 3 years old who can add, we have kids who can speak Spanish, we have kids who can swim, and that’s all a part of the daycare program. So we do not have full-range daycare in our area.
“We don’t have full-range social services at all that can provide for the community. I think our aldermen [need to] take a look at what the real need is, not just putting money into programs because somebody is backing me politically. And I think that is what happens. A lot of the West Side organizations that do have a small amount of money?”like Austin Community Action Center?”they get a very small amount of money and with that small amount of money, they do the best they can do. But there are a lot of other things the community could encompass to make sure that our children and our seniors are provided for on a long-term basis.”
Tchernavia Toliver-Smith: “For this summer, our alderman can provide children with more athletic activities to keep them off the street, to keep them away from any drug activities. We need more summer programs to keep the kids involved. With my kids, there aren’t any programs in the Austin area, so I travel all the way to the Lawndale area for football and basketball. My boys play for the Lawndale Falcons, and they have a wide variety of activities for the children. They have football, basketball, baseball. We don’t really have anything. They also have computer classes; they have summer camps.
“I just signed my kids up for $30 for summer camp at Lawndale Church. Everything we do we have to go out of the neighborhood. If we want to go to a nice party, we have to go to Schaumburg or Naperville and Batavia.”
AWN: What about swimming?
“Columbus Park, are you kidding? It’s open but with limitations. The camp kids have the big majority of the time. If you want to have a birthday party in Austin where would you go? Nowhere. We don’t have any tutoring programs. There is nothing in the Austin area. We have to go out of the community.”
AWN: Has anyone called the alderman about these concerns?
“Several times. We have complained to our captain leaders, the ward captains, several times and to no avail.”