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How community gardens and block associations help stem urban violence

Children at the South Merrill Community Garden in Chicago taking part in a weekly activity program funded by the Chicago Safe and Peaceful Communities Fund. All images courtesy of the Safe and Peaceful Communities Fund. Taken by True Star Media.

Inside a case study on Chicago’s South Side empowering community groups to design their own solutions

By Patrick Sisson
Feb 27, 2018


The South Merrill Community Garden on Chicago’s South Side fills a literal hole in its community. Slipped between between two brick apartment buildings, the small plot was established in the 1980s by neighborhood residents in the predominantly black part of town, who created a small flower garden using bricks from a demolished building. In 2010, area students took over, using the garden to memorialize Troy Law, a local child killed as a result of domestic abuse.

The garden fell into disuse a few years later, weeds overrunning the soil. In 2012, shots rang out as someone was chased through the overgrowth. No one was hurt, but the errant fire galvanized a group of residents to get rid of the eyesore.

Frustrated by the violence in the surrounding South Shore neighborhood, and in the city at large, neighbors reclaimed the land, laying down stone paths and sowing flower and vegetable seeds.

Last summer, this small garden also became a testing ground for an experiment in crime prevention. Thanks to the Chicago Safe and Peaceful Communities Fund, a “rapid-response” charitable initiative giving seed money to communities suffering disproportionately from crime, the garden received a small stipend to run a Saturday program for kids, Planting and Playing Summer Garden Arts. One of 121 small grants, the funds provided an entire summer of Saturday activities for neighborhood kids.

Read the complete article here.