Winnebago County leaders say poverty-stricken neighborhoods in our area shouldn't have to accept crumbs. County administrators are looking to change lives and they're following in some major U.S. cities' footsteps.
"I lived in Atlanta for 7 and 1/2 years and there was an area of Atlanta called East Lake meadows, it was the worst housing complex in the city. This particular housing project has 13% employment. Their crime rate was 18% more than the national average, they had about a murder a day." -says Winnebago County Economic Development Director Stacy Bernardi.
In the mid 1990's, an organization called "Purpose Built Communities," co-founded by Warren Buffett, stepped in to East Lake Meadows, completely restoring it and renaming it East Lake Village.
"These apartment complexes are nicer than probably anything we have in Rockford right now, they have swimming pools, tennis courts." -Bernardi explains.
Plus, in Atlanta, improvements go beyond aesthetics.
"When they started it, 5th graders, only 5% of them could pass the Georgia State Math Test, now 98% pass the Georgia State Math Test." -Bernardi says.
But, it's not a free ride. Residents who are temporarily re-located while their neighborhood is revamped, can come back under two circumstances; all kids are enrolled in school and all adults either have a job or get educational training. Winnebago County leaders want this kind of project to change-up a West-side Rockford neighborhood. The idea is still in planning stages and Bernardi knows this can't happen until other agencies are on board.
"We want the support of everyone in the community, the business community, the City, the County."
County leaders' goal is to have this project completely paid for by private funding.
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