So much going on in Evanston tonight--three meetings, all starting at 7:30 p.m.-- all of which will focus on topics that primarily affect low-income residents, particularly people who are Black or brown.
Try to attend at least ONE of them!
-- At City Council--two important discussions that need your support: questions about Robert Crown Community Center funding; and a call for needed funding for the Family Focus Evanston building (formerly Foster School).
The meeting will take place at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Rd. Recommended arrival time is 7 p.m.
-- At the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board meeting: questions about policies and practices to prevent principals from calling cops to respond to young children in crisis.
In response to last month's Evanston elementary school principal calling the police when a six-year-old, black boy had an emotional meltdown, parents are calling for the District to evaluate its current practices and examine its policies to ensure that they are trauma-informed and aligned with equity goals.
The meeting takes place at JEH Early Childhood Center, 1500 McDaniel.
-- There is also and Evanston Township High School D202 Board meeting at the high school.
The Issues: In More Detail
1. Robert Crown Community Center.
The Evanston Action Group of the North Cook/Lake County Poor People’s Campaign has issued an Action Alert asking residents to speak out at City Council tonight as aldermen deliberate about issuing bonds to fund the new Center.
"The cost of the new Robert Crown Center and its uncertain public funding threatens the future ability to fund city services for our most needy and vulnerable residents," according to the Action Alert.
"The exorbitant $80 million dollar cost ($53.4 million plus interest over 25 years) threatens to be another source of increased property taxes and therefore rents, driving the poor from our community. The new Robert Crown Center will disproportionately impact low-income struggling Evanston residents whom often are black and brown people."
2. Family Focus building.
The landmark Family Focus Evanston building at 2010 Dewey, formerly Foster School, has been put up for sale by Family Focus, Inc. for $2.5 million.
The building, which has been in a state of serious disrepair for years, houses 19 nonprofit organizations that address the needs primarily of families who live in the 5th ward.
A group of 28 Evanston residents, Foster Center Our Place (FCOP), led by Rose Johnson and Jude Laude, has been working for almost two years to find a way to purchase the building and sustain the services housed within it.
The Foster School Building was sold by the District 65 School Board in the early 1980s to Bernard and Bernice Weissbourd for considerably less than $2.5 million. The Weissbourds then donated the building to Family Focus, Inc.
Last November, FCOP made an offer to buy the building but, says Rose Johnson, the response from Family Focus, Inc. was, “We received your offer and created a real estate committee to address the offer.”
FCOP is calling on the City of Evanston and Evanston funders and residents to raise $5 million to help acquire, repair, and maintain the building.
"We have a current engineering assessment of the building showing repairs and maintenance needed to improve the building. We have a verbal agreement with the Evanston Community Foundation to be our fiscal agent. We've obtained 501c3 status," Johnson says. "But fundraising is premature because we do not have an accepted offer. Many hours have been spent exploring many avenues of possible assistance."
Johnson says the services housed in the building make a huge difference to 5th-ward families.
"Where does one go in Evanston if this building is unavailable? Where does one go in Evanston to find space available within walking distance of his home?" she says. "Family Focus is often the first contact made in families' search for services. Family Focus refers to all agencies in and around Evanston, not only those in the building."
Stephen Vick, executive director of Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, which is housed in the building says, "The 5th ward has been historically neglected, isolated and overlooked. Our most struggling families should not have to endure substandard conditions. In no other community of Evanston would the deterioration of a building be tolerated."
Jude Laude says there are 400 to 500 families that currently receive early childhood and social services out of the building.
“It’s a safe and accessible place for those receiving these services,” he says. “Any disruption to this critical resource would be devastating to some of our most vulnerable families, and would further result in a crisis with city-wide implications.”
If our community can raise $15 million privately for Olympic-size hockey rinks and mobilize to save a mansion on the lake, surely we can raise $5 million to purchase a building of historic importance to the Black community--and all of Evanston--and ensure the continuation of programs and services for our most vulnerable residents?
3. Kindergartners and Cops.
A group of D65 parents and guardians who have created a group called "Evanston/Skokie Parents Committed to Anti-Racism," have circulated a petition that has gathered 392 signatures, calling on D65 to review and revise its policies, creating clear guidelines on how crisis situations should be handled at each D65 school.
"This review process should include mental health professionals trained in restorative justice and crisis intervention," says the petition. "The goal of the new or revised policy should be to ensure that the number of incidents in which police are called to intervene with children to be as close to zero as possible."
Which meeting will YOU attend?