‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: North Lawndale

North Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side has faced challenges of economic depression, unemployment and violence for many years, all before the pandemic exacerbated those issues last spring. 

But one recent success for the neighborhood has been the renaming of Douglas Park to Douglass Park – after Frederick Douglass. The change was the direct result of a campaign led by a group of students from the Village Leadership Academy and community organizations over the past several years.  

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Like many Black and Brown communities, the coronavirus has hit North Lawndale hard. The 60623 ZIP code, which the neighborhood shares with parts of Little Village, is currently seeing a 12.1% positivity rate. That’s compared to the city rate of 9.7% as of Thursday, but is lower than other communities seeing close to 15 or 16%.

But this is a community, though historic, that has a lot of needs.

“Everything that was happening before was just amplified by the pandemic. There were housing needs, there were food insecurity needs, before the pandemic. It was just amplified. We saw a lot of people losing their jobs, not having money to pay their rent,” said Dushaun Branch Pollard a community organizer with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, or NLCCC. 

Her group was working on a quality of life plan a year ago, until the pandemic hit. Volunteers were working to address housing and workforce development.

Video: Watch our full interview with 24th Ward Ald. Michael Scott.

Now, the Council has shifted to providing mutual aid during the pandemic, and is helping support food giveaways, diaper drives and donating masks.

They’ve also worked with the Stone Temple Baptist Church, a historic place of worship on Douglas Boulevard.  

Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick says the church has majorly pivoted their operations during the pandemic to provide the community with food, supplies, and toys for children.

“We have a responsibility to our community, and it’s to do whatever we can to make sure people understand what this pandemic is all about, and what we need to do to show some sense of unity,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve partnered with organizations in the community…to provide food, to provide clothing, to provide PPE.” 

North Lawndale is a working class community, with more than 50% of residents earning less than $50,000 a year.

One longtime resident and business owner is Edwin Muldrow of Del-Kar pharmacy on 16th Street, which has been here since the 1960s.

He says he’s definitely noticed residents are struggling and have gone into survival mode, but he does his best to lend support as well.

“I know what I’ve done as far as helping people, with medication or even with at my mini mart next door, if you need assistance with groceries or even just simply delivery. Because a lot of times you don’t have the means to get out and go to pick up your medicine, or go to pick up some milk," he said. 

Video: Watch our full interview with Reshorna Fitzpatrick, pastor of Stone Temple Baptist Church.  

That sentiment was echoed by 24th Ward Ald. Michael Scott, who represents North Lawndale in the Chicago City Council. 

“Many of my community members are stuck in the house and wondering just when this COVID thing is going to end, when they’re going to get the vaccine, when they’re going to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. 

Also in North Lawndale is Sinai Hospital, a safety-net hospital, meaning it treats patients regardless of ability to pay for services.

Dr. Sunita Mohapatra says the hospital has been hit hard by COVID-19, and they’ve tried to respond with multidisciplinary teams to treat patients.

Additionally, she says about 40%  of staff have been vaccinated, which is on par with most hospitals.

But, like in the community, there are health care workers who are hesitant about the vaccine.

“Even health care workers are human and it’s a new vaccine, so there’s a lot of concerns about the novelty of the vaccine, a lot of concerns about potential issues if somebody’s pregnant, particularly if it’s early pregnancy. There have been questions from caregivers who have recently had COVID,” she said.

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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