[ Update ]
Throughout July, 1998, hundreds of volunteers gathered in Emerson Park, East St. Louis, to contribute both their time and energy toward a common goal of providing affordable housing. More commonly referred to as a "Blitz Build", both skilled and unskilled volunteers from all over the state, as well as Emerson Park residents and UIUC affiliates worked from 7AM to 5PM, Monday to Saturday, generating two new homes in three weeks. With everyone working together in an ecumenical environment, the dream of a new home was realized for two area families.
The typical day began at 6am. We awoke, had some juice and a bagel, and made it to the site by 7am. The number of volunteers at the site varied each day. There was a small group of "regulars" who volunteered their time and energy every single day of the build. But each day a new group of people would arrive to contribute something special to the homes. Some people were highly skilled and led groups in certain projects (siding, roofing, porches, drywalling) and others had no idea what they were doing (like myself). But by noon everything was in full swing, everyone busy with a specific project. At noon we took a lunch break which was donated by a different group or organization each day. Everyone sat in a circle and chatted about where they were from and how they ended up in Emerson Park. Throughout the build there were also several area residents that worked on the homes, along with a group of teens that were part of a local summer youth work program. It was great to interact with the citizens from the area. This helped everyone from outside of East St. Louis get a better understanding of the culture and life in the community. It was also wonderful because many of the residents worked on the build throughout the entire month so many people were able to really get to know each other. By the end of the month everyone had made new friends.
After lunch the building continued until nearly 5pm. Often, we worked in both rain and shine. They were long days, and to say that we weren't exhausted by 5pm would be a lie. We were beat! But by the end of July, we had built two beautiful homes that two families could call their own.
The Neighborhood-Based Family Housing Program is working hard to eliminate poverty housing. Through volunteer labor, the program attempts to build simple, decent housing with the help of community residents and homeowner families. The homes are sold to the families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. Each homeowner family is required to put in several hours of their own labor and each family contributes to the design of their house, making each one different and unique.
This project is so important due to the lack of decent, affordable housing and the poor maintenance of both public and private housing in many East St. Louis communities. Today thousands of families in the East St. Louis area are forced to live in substandard, over-crowded housing, often without adequate plumbing or heating. In an effort to address this need, several local church-based and neighborhood-based organizations joined together to develop the Neighborhood-Based Family Housing Program. In response to the housing rehabilitation objectives from the 1991Neighborhood Improvement Plan for Emerson Park which seeks to generate new housing units, the Catholic Urban Program, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, the Emerson Park Local Development Corporation, the Family Center, and East Side Heart and Home Corporation have joined together in an effort to build twenty-five new homes to be located in the Emerson Park and Olivette Park neighborhoods in the East St. Louis community over the next five years.
Coming Soon: More images from Blitz Build '98
Additional information can be seen in the following links:
: Tiffany Ko
Last modified: 10 October 1998, Deanna Koenigs