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South Bend city leaders competing for 'Love Your Block' grant

The City of South Bend is backing a program aimed at helping residents revamp their neighborhoods starting with those on the west side. A resolution just passed Monday night with the common council giving their full support in sprucing up decaying neighborhoods.

“25 thousand dollars,” said Alkeyna Aldridge, Director of Engagement and Economic Empowerment, City of South Bend.

One of South Bend’s newest teams is out for the money. ‘Love Your Block’ is a national program put on by ‘Cities of Service’ aimed at connecting city leaders with community residents to help revitalize neighborhoods and eliminate deterioration across cities one block at a time.

“What we see in South Bend is residents are already doing a lot around blight elimination in their own neighborhoods so the grant is really an opportunity to offer technical assistance to neighborhoods, particularly residents that have taken this challenge up themselves. [It’s] an opportunity to scale up their efforts considering resources are sparse,” said Aldridge.

The catch? Our city leaders have to win the grant from the non-profit group first.

“You could only apply by invitation, so I’m not actually certain who or how many other cities are involved but I know they’ll select 10. If we win, which hopefully we will, we’ll ask the council for a match a $25 thousand match as well,” said Aldridge.

This isn’t just any other day at work for Aldridge and her economic development team. She says she’s taking this task very personally.

“I’m from the west side so I’m super excited about what they’re doing, which is partnering with skill-trades and union people as volunteers to come in and teach them to do repairs and small rehab work on their homes and on their neighbors’ homes, which is incredible to me.”

And her team is open to any ideas you might have.

“We’ll have more feet on the ground in neighborhoods to actually build relationships with folks and understand what they’re truly doing to impact blight,” said Aldridge. “We can stabilize the housing stock before a home needs to be demolished. I imagine there are other bright spots, maybe even different ideas that residents have come up with that we can find.”

Aldridge tells me they’re hopeful that by the end of the month she will know if they win that grant or not. This resolution is the last piece of the puzzle in getting support from the city to move forward.

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