Charity of the Moment: February 2017 Edition


One thing we like to do here, and that we’d like to do with more regularity, is talk about charities that deserve a moment of your time.

Conspicuously absent will be political charities and the biggies. I think the ACLU does great work, but I think most anyone who leans far enough that way and is inclined to donate probably knows about them already. Fair.

Today, we’re talking about the Off The Streets Club.

Off The Streets Club operates in West Garfield Park, a part of Chicago.

Chicago is known for having some problems. What I think is less obvious is the fact that a hugely disproportionate number of those problems occur within some fairly small geographic areas.

West Garfield Park is one of those areas.

The last time I was in Chicago, I got off the train in West Garfield Park. It wasn’t something I did on purpose. I didn’t know exactly where I was.

After walking maybe a block, it was pretty clear that I wasn’t in a good neighborhood.

I’ve traveled quite a little bit in the U.S., and I’ve been to some sketchy neighborhoods. I’ve been to places with high homeless populations, drugs, all that stuff. None of the other places I’ve been, even the rougher ones, felt like this.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, sure. White boy gets off the train, sees a black neighborhood and feels uncomfortable. Welcome to the world!” And I can see that. I don’t mean to bring up the neighborhood to shit on it or tell you it’s bad. I bring it up to explain why I ended up looking into it further and to tell you what brought me to Off The Streets Club.

Let me share with you some things I learned.

In 2014, West Garfield Park had 21 murders. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider the low population there (which has been on the decline for some time), you put the murder rate at 116 per 100,000 people. In 2016, those numbers rose, 31 murders, which meant a total of 172/100,000. An additional 172 people were shot, meaning the rate of shooting was 950/100,000 “a rate of violence seldom seen outside of war zones.”

In 2014, the homicide rate in West Garfield Park, one neighborhood, dwarfed that of Honduras, which was the country with the highest murder rate in the world in 2013. 

So, here’s the situation. Because West Garfield Park is part of Chicago, the statistics are diluted. Chicago’s couple million residents mean that the high level of violence concentrated in some small areas can seem lessened.

The point being, the residents of West Garfield Park would not tell you that the place they live is just another neighborhood. And the effects of this neighborhood hit the kids hard.

They don’t appreciate life because they feel like their life not shit. So they got no problem taking your life. -Askari Ali, Community Organizer

As always, I’m not asking or demanding anything of you, dear reader. I’m not trying to tell anyone they’re obligated to donate or that they should be more like me. That’s probably the LAST thing I’d say. If that happened, the world would have great hamburgers and donuts, and science, medicine, and visual arts would be fucked.

All I’m trying to do is spread the good word and give people an opportunity to make a difference with their money. That’s not always an easy thing to do.

I’ve vetted the Off The Streets Club with the normal available tools, and I think they’re very worthy of your money.

I encourage you to visit the web site. Watch a few of their videos. And if you aren’t going to donate for whatever reason, use whatever voice you’ve cultivated online and in person to pass along the idea.

Thanks for reading.