CURL e-Newsletter Summer 2010
Researchers from CURL, the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration are participating in a research partnership with the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness and the City of Chicago to implement a two-year evaluation of the City of Chicago’s Plan to End Homelessness.
Initiated in 2003, Chicago’s plan attempts to radically transform Chicago’s homeless system from one that manages homelessness to one that ends homelessness by moving people quickly into permanent housing. Funded by several foundations, including Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, the Michael Reese Health Trust, the Polk Brothers Foundation, the Field Foundation, and the Chicago Tribune Charities – Holiday Campaign, a fund of the McCormick Foundation, this evaluation seeks to gain an understanding of how Chicago’s Plan has affected the city’s service system and how those changes directly impact the lives of the homeless residents it serves.
The plan is the first homelessness intervention strategy of its magnitude officially initiated by a major large city in the United States. Working with 70+ agencies and housing providers across the city, the research team is evaluating the programs and models that have been put into place under the Chicago Plan. This data will then be utilized to make necessary mid-course corrections and improve service implementation going forward. The four key components of the project are a qualitative study of homeless clients, a longitudinal client survey, a homeless service agency survey, and a service inventory.
Over the summer of 2009, the research team completed a series of focus groups and observations at various housing programs and social service providers across the city. The first wave of data collection for the longitudinal client survey was done in the fall and winter. The second wave of data collection for this survey began in late March with the service provider survey set to begin in the coming weeks.
The results of a three-year study examining the economic impact of the new Wal-Mart on the Austin business community, located on Chicago's West Side, has received significant media attention over the past two months. This study, led by the collaborative efforts of Julie Davis from Loyola University Chicago, and David Merriman and Joe Persky from University of Illinois – Chicago, was structured around a series of three surveys of retail businesses in an area within a four-mile radius of the Wal-Mart location. The research also included an analysis of data on employment, sales tax, and other economic indicators. The basic sample followed 306 enterprises, 82 of which went out of business over the study period.
Results indicate that the probability of going out of business during the study period was significantly higher for establishments close to the Wal-Mart location. In addition, there is evidence that large-city Wal-Marts absorb retail sales and labor from other city stores without significantly expanding the market. An estimated 300 full-time equivalent jobs were lost in Wal-Mart’s own and nearby zip codes after the mega-store opened, suggesting a loss approximately equal to Wal-Mart’s own addition to employment in the area.
An examination of trends in sales tax data for 18 months before and after the Wal-Mart opening revealed significant declines in sales. Retail employment levels in Wal-Mart’s own zip code showed no notable change, presumably because of the addition of Wal-Mart’s own employees, but retail employment trends in neighboring zip codes did seem to be negatively impacted after Wal-Mart’s opening.
Overall, the weight of evidence suggests that the Wal-Mart opening on the West Side led to the displacement of a range of businesses. There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area. These conclusions reached are consistent with other research on how Wal-Mart impacts small towns and suburbs. In light of these findings, claims that the Chicago Wal-Mart has led to significant economic development in nearby areas must be considered skeptically.
The results of this study received significant media coverage, and were featured by Fox TV, WTTW, WFLD-TV, WLS-TV, and on the web at the Huffington Post, the Chicagoist, and Progress Illinois. This study’s final report is located here.
Ashley Hernandez, a recent Loyola graduate and former CURL Undergraduate Fellow, has been working with the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, a Cleveland-based organization pioneering innovative models of worker-owned businesses throughout the Midwest.
Cleveland, like many regional rust-belt cities, has suffered intensely throughout deindustrialization over the past few decades. Unemployment in Cleveland currently hovers around 12 percent, and joblessness is clustered much more heavily in inner city areas. In the wake of these problems, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) is starting the Evergreen Cooperatives Initiative, an ambitious new program that is designed to combat the issues of unemployment and to build ownership and wealth for community residents.
The Evergreen Cooperative is the OEOC’s first endeavor in creating a start-up worker-owned cooperative and is located in the University Circle area of Cleveland. A number of powerful, stable institutions are located in University Circle—including Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the University Hospital—but these wealth-generating establishments have historically invested relatively little into the local community, where average household incomes are currently below $18,000 and unemployment rates are at 40%.
In an attempt to connect the massive purchasing power of these institutions with local residents, the OEOC first began by conducting a number of feasibility tests of local markets, and the result was the Evergreen Laundry, an employee-owned laundry facility that services the University Hospital and other institutions. OEOC officials hope the Evergreen Laundry will bring jobs and anchor wealth into the community. Ten percent of profits from Evergreen will be used as start-up money for other cooperatives in the area. An Ohio Cooperative Solar initiative is already in operation, and planning for a Green City Growers greenhouse is also underway.
While the Evergreen Cooperative is the OEOC’s first start-up cooperative, the OEOC has assisted in the transition of over 400 Ohio companies from traditional models of ownership into varying levels of employee ownership. Employee owned companies differ primarily from traditional companies in that productive assets are typically shared by employees instead of business owners and external stockholders. This gives employees more direct control over their companies and promotes democratic processes in which employees participate in all decisions that affect their businesses.
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative has been featured in The Nation, Time Magazine, and Business Week. It is funded in large part by the Cleveland Foundation, and is based on the Mondragon Cooperatives model in the Basque region of Spain.
While Ashley was at CURL she worked with Julie Hilvers on the Rebuilding Together project and says she began to recognize the importance of building community through her interactions with residents of Englewood and Austin. She notes, ‘Not just creating jobs, but building wealth and anchoring capital in the community, can help residents obtain ownership in their communities and combat feelings of disempowerment. While this doesn’t solve every inequality, reinvesting in community long-term, empowering through ownership, and democratizing that ownership can give people the potential to have an important say in their work, and in their everyday lives.’ Ashley notes that CURL played an integral part in shaping both her plans for the future and her personal interests. She looks ahead to reshaping the future of ownership and labor in the Midwest, she is quick to mention, “I miss CURL, I think about them all the time. It was really a great place to work.”
At the end of the last few academic years, Loyola University has gathered undergrads involved in various research fellowship programs in order to give them a forum to present their research work – the Undergraduate Research Symposium. This year’s symposium, entitled "Transformative Research: Knowledge in Service to Humanity," was held on April 25th with CURL’s own undergraduate fellowship program participants once again proudly representing their hard work on various collaborative research topics.
Jenna Hartung, CURL Undergrad Fellow, shares her presentation with Dr. John Pelissero, Provost
The fellows did an excellent job of representing their work at CURL as well as the efforts of their broader team. A special note of congratulations goes to Jenna Hartung for taking home the 3rd-place award for research presentation in the area of “Ethics and Social Justice.”
We have launched a new blog, CURL Perspectives, to give CURL staff, fellows, affiliated faculty, advisory board members, and community partners an opportunity to provide timely reports on emerging research findings as well as commentaries on contemporary issues facing local communities. You are invited to follow our blog and join in on the conversations: CURL Perspectives Blog
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