“The participants in our program were homeless for a myriad of reasons, loss of employment, family disputes, mental illness, substance abuse etc… By providing educational coaching to groups and individuals I am able to help facilitate change and growth in our participants’ lives. I get the privilege of helping people realize the vision that they have for their lives.”
Life Skills Manager
An Economic Development Strategy for Bronzeville
The Renaissance Collaborative (TRC) understands that a Bronzeville economic renaissance will do much to increase the quality of life for community residents. In addition to their community building efforts like their Bronzeville Retail Initiative’s transit-oriented economic development along the CTA Green Line, they have focused on a people-centric economic development approach. In 2009, TRC launched Bronzeville Green, a social venture initiative of TRC featuring training and educational opportunities for employees, and landscaping services to clients. The Bronzeville Works facility also trains participants for customer service and green technologies (energy efficiency, computer repairs and recycling, etc…). Asset building programs like their Individual Development Account (IDA) program provides a cash match for residents who saved regularly to help them achieve their goal of self-sufficiency. Financial literacy courses are offered to residents of The Renaissance Apartments and the Senior Village to help in money management. TRC recently joined the Bank On Chicago project as a Community Partner to help the unbanked in Bronzevillie open up safe checking accounts when appropriate.
From Vision to Results
Graduates of their IDA program have gone from obtaining their GED to getting their Master’s Degree in Social Work. They have found jobs in the government and started their own. They have even progressed from living in The Renaissance Apartments to owning their own homes. A recent participant was able to enroll in school for medical billing, purchase a computer and the required software, and successfully obtained certification. She is currently fulfilling her goal of working in the medical field practicing medical billing and coding.
History of The Renaissance Collaborative
The Renaissance Collaborative was originally born out of a mission to save a cultural landmark, the historic Wabash YMCA building in Chicago’s Bronzeville community. The Wabash YMCA was the hub of Black civic and social activity in the early 1900s. As Blacks migrated from the South to the North, the Wabash YMCA served as the orientation center for migrants seeking a better way of life. Four Churches – Quinn Chapel AME, St. Thomas Episcopal, St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic, and Apostolic Faith – came together to save the historic YMCA, and later created The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc. in 1992 in an effort to further support the community. TRC provides affordable housing, financial education, asset building, workforce development, and community development for the Bronzeville community.
Directed by community stakeholders, TRC has expanded to meet the needs of its community from offering affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness and seniors taking care of dependents, to a workforce development program offering education and training, to an Individual Development Account (IDA) program helping participants save for the future. All services and programs are free to the participants and are designed to help them achieve self-sufficiency and a better quality of life.