Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Northwest Residents Envision Change; Wish List: More Jobs and Shopping Centers, Less Crime

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Northwest Residents Envision Change; Wish List: More Jobs and Shopping Centers, Less Crime

Article excerpt

Byline: William Browning

At home in Sherwood Forest recently, Leola Williams heard gunshots a few blocks over.

"It happens from time to time," she said. "You don't know who is shooting or whether someone is getting killed."

She called the police, she said, because that is all she could do.

On Saturday, she and roughly 200 other residents took another step toward doing something to transform their neighborhoods by attending a town hall-style meeting at the Jacksonville Job Corps Center near Golfair. The purpose of the gathering was to bring together residents of Northwest Jacksonville who want to positively change where they live and learn from one another.

"We're tired of being studied," said Paul Tutwiler, CEO of Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation. "It really is about understanding that we want change. And we believe wholeheartedly that change has to involve the residents themselves."

The "Empowering People Inspire Change," or EPIC initiative, is a collaborative effort by the Local Initiatives Support Coalition Jacksonville and Tutwiler's group.

There is an identical effort taking place in the east Jacksonville and the Springfield area.

"This approach is a bottom-up approach that allows residents to bubble up what they see as the issues and then, what is it that their community will look like to be successful," said Janet Owens, executive director of LISC Jacksonville.

Across the country, LISC has had success with similar programs in cities like Boston and Chicago.

During the last three months, roughly 350 interviews have been gathered from Jacksonville citizens who live in the neighborhoods. They were asked to identify the areas' strengths and weaknesses and where they want to take their neighborhoods.

On Saturday afternoon, Northwest residents heard the responses.

The strengths they see are strong community ties and reduced crime. The weaknesses they pinpointed were unemployment and lack of available work opportunities in the area. …

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