What assets do faith-based institutions located within the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin provide to those communities upon which further neighborhood development and revitalization efforts can best be built?

PHH Plan Boundary

There has been recent interest in revitalization efforts in the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  The need for intervention in these neighborhoods was a major platform point during local elections in early 2013 (Sullivan & Londre, 2013) along with a desire by neighboring institutions to spearhead development efforts (Gundersen Lutheran Health System & City of La Crosse, 2013).  After a preliminary review of the local literature, neighborhood planning efforts are focused on three areas:  safety/security, property improvement, and economic development (Burian, 2013; GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013; Sullivan & Londre, 2013).  Primary stakeholders and critical supporters identified include businesses, social service agencies, and private individuals, with an overwhelming emphasis on government sponsored agencies (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013).   While there is a general reference to churches as a critical supporter in the PHH/Gundersen plan (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013), it is also noted a detailed examination of  the current place and future roles of small scale, faith-based organizations in these neighborhoods is missing from the neighborhood development conversation as a whole.

Addressing the omission of religious congregations in the visioning process for these communities is the focus of my proposed research.  The more disadvantaged a neighborhood community, the less involved residents become with community leader involvement increasing (Sampson & Graif, 2009).  Religious institutions are identified as key community leaders in neighborhoods (Sampson & Graif, 2009), therefore faith-based institutions should already be deeply involved in supporting the PHH neighborhood and will be instrumental in future redevelopment efforts. When developing abundant communities it is essential to look at the assets of the community first in order to build upon them instead of merely focusing on community faults in need of fixing (McKnight & Block, 2012).  These assets include tangible events such as community picnics and resources such as food shelves, but they also include certain properties (i.e., recognizing member gifts, nurturing communal life, hospitality to the stranger) and capacities (i. e., kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, mystery) that provide for satisfying communal relationships (McKnight & Block, 2012).  Identifying the current tangible and intangible assets of faith-based institutions within the PHH neighborhood will clarify areas for partnership, foundational assets to be built upon, and untapped assets as well.