The city’s Community Development Network is on a mission to “solve problems.”
“We’re trying to increase the collaborative potential of Belleville,” said Jim Schneider, director of human resources, training and community development for the city.
Thus was born the Community Development Network in 2014. The concept is to form a network of community members as opposed to a formal committee with members appointed by the mayor.
“We decided this was a different animal that’s wrestling issues that government can’t wrestle by itself,” Schneider said. “It’s truly an open network. Anybody in the city that wants to come be part of these efforts can come to this network. We’re here to solve problems.”
The network targeted six issues to address:
▪ Public safety
▪ Community health and wellness
▪ Youth development
▪ Economic development
In an effort to get more information about how the network can help Belleville grapple with these six issues, the Community Development Network wants residents to fill out an anonymous, brief survey that has questions about the six topics.
We decided this was a different animal that’s wrestling issues that government can’t wrestle by itself.
Jim Schneider, director of human resources, training and community development for Belleville
The survey is available online on the city’s website at Belleville.net. Also, you can get a paper version at City Hall, the Parks & Recreation office, Belleville Township and the city’s two library buildings.
“We thought the survey would make a lot of sense to give all our backbone support groups the opportunity to hear from the citizenry,” said Lynn Clapp, who is chairman of the city’s Human Relations Commission and participates in the Community Development Network.
“And one of our challenges would be to get a really good representative sample from the city,” said Clapp, who is a former Belleville School District 118 administrator. “We hope that all of our citizens participate in this.”
The group will collect surveys until Feb. 29.
One of the Community Development Network’s six target areas, homelessness, came to forefront during a cold snap last week.
Pastor Cory Hartz of Trinity United Church of Christ in Belleville and Gerry Hasenstab, executive director of the Belleville Diocese’s Catholic Urban Programs, are both involved in the Community Development Network’s homelessness initiative and said they are happy the network included this issue in its six target areas.
It truly is a cooperative effort between the churches, concerned citizens, other people passionate about homelessness in this case and City Hall.
Pastor Cory Hartz of Trinity United Church of Christ in Belleville
“It truly is a cooperative effort between the churches, concerned citizens, other people passionate about homelessness in this case and City Hall,” Hartz said.
Hartz gave this example of how the public-private partnership can work in dealing with homelessness:
When temperatures plunged last week, his church was a designated warming site for three days.
Fourteen people went to Trinity United at 47 N. Douglas Ave. on Jan. 17-19 to get out of the cold and enjoy some hot coffee during the day. At night, if the people did not have a place to spend the night, they were given emergency hotel vouchers.
“When they came into Trinity, if they didn’t have a warm bed that night, we were going to make sure they had one,” Hartz said.
Hartz said the vouchers were provided by Catholic Urban Programs, which received a $15,000 grant in November from Belleville Township and other donations to fund the effort.
Eight of the people who took shelter at Trinity United talked to volunteers who have casework experience. Hartz said the volunteers talked to the homeless people about employment, housing, getting mental health help and “kicking addictions.”
“We’ve had this mentality of it’s us versus them,” Hartz said. “And what I mean is churches versus the city or concerned citizens versus the city. Well, I for one, am grateful that we have an opportunity to work with the city in common goals and it’s when we can do that, that things do actually start to get done.”
Hasenstab said he’s “really glad” Belleville’s Community Development Network is addressing homelessness because the issue has a “major effect” on the city.
“It will all tie together down the line, and I think it’s great that it was included because many times (homelessness) is just left out on the peripheral, ‘Yeah, it’s an issue but we don’t have to deal with that, just keep them out of sight.’”
“They don’t want to keep them out of sight,” Hasenstab said. “They want to help get them situated. They want to help. They don’t just want to hide.”
Voice your opinion
Here are ways to take Community Development Network survey:
- For the online version, go to Belleville.net and click on the survey headline under “Belleville news.”
- For the paper version, go to City Hall at 101 S. Illinois St.; Belleville’s main library at 121 E. Washington St.; the library’s west branch at 3414 W. Main St.; the parks department at 510 W. Main St.; and the Belleville Township office at 111 W. A St.
- For more information, contact Darrel Coons at email@example.com or 618-257-7022, Jim Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-233-6518, ext. 2280 (ask for Peggy) or Lynn Clapp at email@example.com or 618-910-8923.
- The Community Development Network meets at 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday every other month at the city office building at 510 W. Main St. The next meeting will be March 9 and the public is invited.