WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — West Humboldt Park neighbors, police and community organizations are banding together for a “safety walk” this weekend.
Residents are encouraged to attend the event, which will kick off noon Saturday at Division Street and Harding Avenue. The group will walk southbound on Harding Avenue to Iowa Street, westbound on Iowa Street to Pulaski Road, northbound on Pulaski Road to Division Street and end at Harding Park.
The event is being put on by the 11th Police District, Ald. Emma Mitts’ 37th Ward office, Orr Academy High School Principal Shanele Andrews and volunteers.
During the event, jazz musicians will perform and representatives from West Side organizations and institutions like the Chicago Recovery Alliance and Garfield Park Hospital will hand out informational materials and Narcan, an opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of an overdose.
The goal of the event is to provide West Siders in need with resources and to spread hope in the area, which has long suffered from neglect, said organizer Corey Braddock, a lifelong West Sider and community ambassador with the Neighborhood Policing Initiative.
They hope to lift up “every community member, including those [who] are the most marginalized, like those dying of opioid overdoses, the children who have to walk past these abandoned buildings where people are dying,” Braddock said. “There’s a lot of dysfunction on the West Side.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, opioid overdoses have surged on the West Side, which has long been the epicenter of the opioid epidemic in Chicago. Braddock, who is also a former police officer, said he recently lost an old friend to a drug overdose.
“It’s happening all of the time and people don’t care about these folks,” he said.
Patricia Carrillo, longtime West Humboldt Park resident and community organizer, said drug-dealing was so frequent on her block “it was like a McDonald’s drive-thru” for a while.
Carrillo said things have improved over the past couple of years, in part because of the block clubs she’s helped organize, but there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done to ensure area residents are safe. West Humboldt Park also sees a lot of gun violence.
“We need to change our community, and the only way we can do it is to get together for a change,” Carrillo said. “If we don’t say something, nothing is going to change.”
Braddock said the organizers “want to bring a light” to the area.
“I want people to come and join us … to make sure everybody feels welcome and then let those most marginalized feel they’re part of the community,” he said. “We want their lives to be enriched. They deserve the dignity that every human being does.”
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