Anchored by Northwestern University and known for its architecture and beautiful homes on the lake, Evanston is an independent and thriving community. Evanston has worked to ensure equity and opportunity for all residents by strengthening its Welcoming City ordinance, establishing an Equity and Empowerment Commission, and expanding opportunities for career success through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
Restorative Housing Reparations Program
There exists a wealth and opportunity gap between white and black Evanstonians because of redlining, discriminatory and restrictive practices in housing, zoning, lending and other policies. Recognizing the disparities that exist, the city council created the Equity & Empowerment Commission and adopted a Resolution (58-R-19) committing to end structural racism and achieve racial equity.
The commission was aided by two Evanston based historical archives in identifying harms inflicted against Black Evanstonians by providing historical and contemporary instances where the City of Evanston might have facilitated, participated in, enacted, or stood neutral in the wake of acts of segregated and discriminatory practices in all aspects of engagement with the Evanston Black community. In addition to this research, the commission held community meetings to gather public input on what actions could be taken. Ultimately the Equity & Empowerment Commission presented a report and recommended actions to the Evanston City Council that addresses “repair and reparations” for Black Evanstonians.
A Reparations Subcommittee was formed to determine viability. Both the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) and the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) provided advice to the Reparations Subcommittee regarding Evanston’s reparations process. Additional town halls and meetings were held to further engage residents in program details.
Ultimately a Restorative Housing Reparations Program was created. Under this initiative, qualified Black Evanstonians would be provided with $25,000 to either purchase a home, conduct home improvement, or down pay on their existing mortgage.
The reparations program will be funded by the first ten million dollars of the City’s Municipal Cannabis Retailers’ Occupation Tax. Additional funding came from individual residents, churches, and three local businesses that pledged their support by either making one-time donations or contributing a percentage of their profits to the Reparations Fund.
Evanston Care Network (ECN)
At the outset of the COVID crisis, the City of Evanston joined forces with Evanston 311, the Evanston Public Library, AMITA Health, and the Evanston Community Foundation to launch the Evanston Care Network (ECN) website. ECN planning team members represented particular and often underserved subsets of the Evanston population to ensure those specific needs and preferences were taken into consideration when developing the program.
ECN serves as a comprehensive online database of free and low-cost programs and services available to Evanston residents. Resource categories include food, shelter, childcare, healthcare, employment, financial assistance, and more. Contact information and eligibility criteria are listed under each resource, and service providers are asked to “claim” and maintain their listing(s) to provide the most up-to-date information on resource availability.
All ECN materials are in both English and Spanish; additionally, the website itself can be translated into 108 different languages.
To ensure individuals lacking access to technology can still access ECN resources, community members can call Evanston 311 for assistance navigating the website. Calls may be routed to the Evanston Public Library where staff is trained to search the Evanston Care Network and provide referrals to appropriate services. There are Spanish-speaking representatives available for callers who require translation services. Additionally, callers who would like additional mental health support may request assistance through AMITA Health’s crisis line.
The ECN team receives reports showing the number of users, programs, referrals, and information on the most common search terms, so the team can either better promote existing resources or develop new services.
Between its May 2020 launch and the end of December 2020, the Evanston Care Network saw 2,594 users and a total of 5,281 searches.
Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP)
The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) began in 1992. For more than twenty-five years, it has provided skills and workforce opportunities year-round for thousands of Evanston at-risk youth ages 14-18.
The program gives participating youth up to nine weeks of entry-level work experience in various jobs and industries through community-based organizations, city government departments, and private sector businesses.
MSYEP allows youth to explore new interests, stay active, build technical skills and expand their experiences. The program allows parents to communicate as often as they like with group leaders, directors, and staff to ensure that their children are receiving the very best.
In partnership with the Addie Wyatt Center for Nonviolence Training, the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program hosted its second annual Kingian Nonviolence Summer Institute. Fifteen Evanston young adults were trained on the principles and steps of nonviolent conflict reconciliation, and how to conduct and lead a nonviolence campaign.
As a workforce development and non-law enforcement crime prevention initiative, the MSYEP emphasizes real-world labor expectations, increases the awareness of services offered by local community-based organizations, and provides career instruction opportunities, financial literacy training, and occupational skills training, and social-emotional growth and development.
The program showed a statistically significant increase in employment opportunities from 150 in 2012 to over 600 in 2020. In addition, there has been a considerable increase in student participation and attendance from around 300 in 2012 to over 700 students in 2020. Finally, Evanston violence, theft, burglary, and drug-related arrests for youth 16-18 decreased by 219% from 2012 to 2018.