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We May Have All Come On Different Ships, But We’re In The Same Boat Now By Martha Ross

It’s time to stop blaming and start planning for the survival of our future. Ten or twenty years before I came to Peoria maybe it was different, but I’ve been a resident of Peoria’s Southside since 1980 which by my calculations is 39 years. There have been many studies done on how to enhance and uplift the Peoria’s Southside but no real successes to speak of.

The Neighborhood Development Department (now called the Community Development Department) at the City of Peoria grew out of the need to focus on deteriorating neighborhoods, economic development, and neighborhood enhancement. Oh, there have been many sporadic projects done like the demolition of the old Warner Homes and parts of the Harrison Homes projects to make room for the Hope Six initiatives which is the River West and the Hope Six 2. Then there were some Tax Credit initiatives to promote home ownership after you live there for fifteen years such as the Okpara Homes. There have been two new schools built on the Southside in the last 40 years, Valeska Hinton Early Learning Center and Harrison Primary School.

The decline in the population due to people moving away for one reason or another hasn’t helped the stability of the community. Let’s not forget Spring Grove, the gated community on the Southside designed to attract the middle-class income earner. The bottom line is we, “the people” of the Southside, Northside, it doesn’t really matter where in Peoria or surrounding areas, you are affected by the disinvestment, lack of economic development, blighted neighborhoods, failing infrastructure, storm water runoff, vacant lots, abandoned buildings, lack of easy access to food resources, crime, and so on.

All the negatives have plagued the Southside of Peoria, and it’s no wonder people and businesses don’t see this as a desirable place to live and or do business. The sixth-highest level of segregation between Blacks and Whites, 44% living in poverty, 20% unemployment, 58% Black, White flight, segregated schools. Who in their right mind would want to live here? The average person is only going to hear that Peoria has all these negatives, in many cases they will develop their opinion of Metropolitan Peoria based on these fears. From the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now!”

The Southside Community United for Change (SCUC) invites you to join us as we take control and rebuild our neighborhood, which will ultimately rebuild our city!