Rebuilding the South Side
WHY COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT??
It’s a great question! Listen in as Eric, our Executive Director, explains the strategy behind the development projects that CLDI takes on and how they directly support our mission!
Investing in the South Side
TRANSFORMING LIVES AND CHANGING LANDSCAPES
For nearly 40 years, CLDI has been at work in a low-income neighborhood of Billings, Montana known as the South Side. As a Christian community development organization, it is our aim to holistically invest in the lives of South Side residents for the flourishing of all.
Since 2016, CLDI has invested over $4.2 million to remove blight and re-develop two dilapidated buildings on S. 29 th Street. These two projects alone have drastically improved the perception of the South Side as an entry into downtown. This is just the beginning.
A Broken Community with Tremendous Potential
History of the South Side
As is the case with many low-income neighborhoods, the South Side is certainly marked by stigmas that are often associated with “poor neighborhoods.” To an outsider our community is south of the tracks, the part of town you simply want to avoid; blanketed with service organizations such as correctional facilities, half-way houses, drug and rehab facilities, a homeless shelter; and the place with the most condensed population of felons, often home of the worst crimes – you name it, it’s probably here. Yet, despite how the South Side may be understood by others, we are a community of rich history and proud identity. In the same way, this is the heart of CLDI: to leverage the good in the community for the transformation and empowerment of persons in South Billings through the person of Jesus Christ.
Generations of families live in the South Side, and they have lived here for years. Floods of relatives, deeply interconnected, form the majority of our community. Those young people who succeed, despite the odds stacked against them, eventually exit the community, looking for a better way of life. But even then, after they have long since been gone, they are deeply rooted in the South Side, for they understand the rich community from which they have come.
Holistic Problem Solving
5 Ways we Do Community Development
The education of children is vital for the wellness of families and communities. The South Side is fortunate to have two great neighborhood schools, Orchard Elementary and Riverside Middle School. CLDI partners with both schools, providing mentoring for their students, volunteers, and after-school services.
Employment opportunities are available in Billings, but, it is our experience that the need has less to do with “getting a job” as it does having the skills to keep a job and the skill set to earn a more livable wage. Rail//Line Coffee was created in part to provide job skill and leadership development training for our community, it is our hope to provide more career development opportunities in the future.
This is a term that was coined by Ray Oldenburg and simply refers to places where people spend time outside of their home or work to build relationships, relax, read, or simply have a good time. The South Side has two great parks, South Park and Highland Park, but until we had opened Rail//Line Coffee, the community was void of a community gathering spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and food.
Increased Home Ownership
Homeownership is an absolute need for any community to be healthy. The South Side has only 32% home ownership, leaving the remaining 68% of all housing stock as either rental properties or vacant homes. CLDI developed a 70-home subdivision in the heart of the South Side in early 2000s to increase quality housing and promote homeownership. Additionally, CLDI has made a push to encourage employees to purchase homes and intentionally neighbor the South Side.
People need access to healthy and affordable food, especially in low-income communities where many individuals do not have a mode of transportation apart from a bicycle or the public bus system. Since 2013, the South Side has been without food access apart from what limited food items are available at the Dollar Store, Ace Hardware, and neighborhood convenience stores. For this reason, CLDI has been working with community and nonprofit leaders to provide a solution to the food desert gap.
Removing Blight and Making New
Completed Development Projects
CLDI is well-suited to lead in community development efforts in the South Side through a creative Kingdom lens to see the potential for God’s redeeming work and restoration of places such that His shalom (harmonious peace and flourishing) can truly be experienced. A few completed projects are:
Restoring an old building to a new, trendy coffee shop that provides job and leadership training for local at-risk youth while investing dollars into the South Side community. We love that Rail//Line depicts everything we are about.
What was once a needle-infested area is now homes that hold families and hope! From the green spaces for kids to play to providing a way for families to have safe affordable housing…it’s all good and beautiful.
Labor Temple Hall
From a pigeon infested space to 17 sweet IKEA-like apartments and offices for the CLDI staff. We resurrected the Gathering Place (an affordable venue) and invested millions of dollars into a once-blighted corner.
Mosaic Senior Living
This affordable, ADA-compliant housing complex will allow seniors on the South Side to safely age in place with dignity. We break ground in Summer of 2021 to build 6 beautiful, ground floor apartments.
Revitalizing the South Side
Projects in the works
The Hannah House is expanding – by 1,401 sq ft! More pitter-patter, growth, and restoration of families will be happening! This first year, we will use the home to house our CLDI interns who are immersed in good works in the South Side.
We recently purchased the Galles Building next to Rail//Line. Plans are in progress! Stay tuned! Directly behind the Galles building, we will build an affordable apartment complex with 34 units called “Tapestry”.
The Pink House
What once was considered blight with ongoing illicit behavior will slowly become a place where the Gospel will be heard and shared. This little house will hold interns who are laboring in the field for kingdom purposes.