‘Project Presence’ hopes to mobilize North Lawndale residents to help curb crime

Chicago News

CHICAGO — A West Side organization is trying to reduce violent crime by encouraging neighbors to get outside and engage with young people. It’s called Project Presence. 

Block by block, they want to spread love and hope to help their community flourish.

Jabari Ellis is an outreach advocate at the Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago. He works with young people to interrupt violence.

“I don’t have no fear of them,” Ellis said. “I approach them the way I would want someone to approach me when I was their age.”

But with limited outreach staff, they’re working on the new plan that collaborates with churches and other groups to mobilize residents at crime hotspots in North Lawndale.

“What Project Presence will look like is there are community members who committed to being on the block,” said founder of Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago Pastor Phil Jackson. “There may be a bouncy house bringing the kids out, there may be folks barbecuing.”

The goal is to eventually build a daily presence throughout the neighborhood. 

The effort was first reported by Block Club Chicago. Jackson said last weekend’s murder of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams created even more urgency to open opportunities for healing.

Their first planning meeting will be held at the center at 2111 S. Hamlin on Thursday at 5 p.m. They hope to have the project running before Memorial Day. 

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