Our tCI program library is growing to include all the tCI programs in Claretian parishes across the country. One of our robust communities is Holy Cross Parish in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Though staff at Holy Cross have already made a tremendous impact over the last three decades, new challenges arise every day.
The Back of the Yards neighborhood is located on Chicago’s industrial southwest side. The community’s approximately 8,000 residents earn an annual household income of only about $32,000. This is less than half the average income of $68,000 in Chicago and $70,000 nationally.Thirty-six percent of neighborhood residents live below the poverty line, which is far greater than Chicago’s 21% average, and approximately three times the state and national averages. Given the economic reality of the area, it’s no surprise that 23% of neighborhood families receive SNAP benefits to put food on the table.
Much of the crime in the community can be linked to substance abuse and gang activity. Because of high drop-out rates and working or single parents unable to provide supervision, many young people find themselves locked inside their homes or roaming the streets during school and after-school hours. By getting kids off the couch, off the street, and involved in parish program groups and activities, Holy Cross’ programs do more than just prevent and reduce neighborhood crime; they open the doors to the kinds of academic and professional opportunities and mentors that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to these young people.
The staggering neighborhood unemployment rate contributes heavily to the poverty many families live with. From 2005-2009, the unemployment rate in the Back of the Yards was about double state and national rates: 15% compared to10.5% city-wide, to 8% state-wide, and to 7% nationally for the same time period.
The community’s wide-spread poverty is particularly concerning when you consider that the neighborhood has an overwhelming number of young people; 39% of residents are under the age of 20, with 11% under the age of five. Holy Cross’ programs are highly effective, in part, because of this low median age (27), as staff members can intervene early in children’s lives and set them on good paths for the future.
Many of these young people are growing up in households run by a single parent.In 2010, 39% of neighborhood households had a single parent, with 23% being headed by single women. These numbers have seen a sharp increase in recent years, which means an increased likelihood of young people in these households living below the poverty line.
With few exceptions, neighborhood elementary and high schools have much higher percentages of low-income and limited-English-proficiency students than other Illinois schools. Their dropout, truancy, attendance rates, and standardized test scores are also considerably worse.
The neighborhood’s educational struggles extend into higher education. Only 44% of neighborhood residents 25 and older have completed high school or beyond. And just 3% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to economic concerns and lack of previous schooling, language is a crucial factor that limits higher education for many adults in the community. Eighty-six percent of neighborhood residents speak Spanish at home. Of those, about half speak English less than very well.
Holy Cross has many programs in need of support. You can give to a specific program or make a more general donation. No matter what you choose, 95% of all donations go directly to programs in at-risk communities.