What St. Louis can learn from underresourced communities | Columnists

As St. Louisians, we often speak about the challenges of our city and region. We wonder why we can’t overcome them to be as successful as cities like Nashville, Austin, Texas and Charlotte.

If we are to learn how to overcome our challenges, we must look to St. Louisians and communities who have worked to overcome more than their fair share.

I believe the story of the 24:1 community provides many lessons that our region can learn from.

The 24:1 community – an area made up of 24 (now 23) municipalities in the footprint of the Normandy Schools Collaborative in North St. Louis County – was born during the volatile mortgage crisis of 2008. Like the pandemic in 2020, the crisis hit resourced sub-communities earliest and hardest.

My good friend, the late Honorable Mayor Mary Carter of Pagedale, called together her peers from surrounding municipalities to start a conversation about how to resolve this crisis, and she asked if we at Beyond Housing could help. Our organization had earned his trust over the previous years through our community development work in Pagedale, which included the construction of 100 new homes. She told her peers that we could be trusted and would be a good partner. From there, a radical conversation began about how these 24 cities could work together.

These discussions have broadened to include residents and other stakeholders. What resulted was more than a community, it was a movement.

Flash forward to the present day. Our region always talks about its same challenges. Yet the 24:1 community, despite enormous challenges, is making progress.

Together with the community and many partners, we have raised and invested over $150 million in the 24:1. Together we have built hundreds of new homes and rehabilitated hundreds more. Together we built a movie theater in Pagedale as well as two senior centers, a Midwest BankCentre, Affinia and BJC health centers, and Carter Commons, which is home to several minority-owned businesses. Many families have experienced greater success as we strive to strengthen ourselves further through holistic services provided to families in 509 affordable rental homes throughout the community.

Together, we began to change the narrative.

Working together also gave us more power to get up when we needed to. During the 2020 education crisis in the Normandy School District, the 24:1 Municipal Partnership – a partnership of mayors and local leaders – and hundreds of residents led the charge for greater accountability and change in district leadership, as well as the right of residents to elect officers to the district executive board.

In 2015, twelve 24:1 municipalities filed a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 5. The bill unfairly capped traffic fines at 12.5% ​​of municipal operating revenue, compared to 20% elsewhere in the state. If we had not stood up together, Bill 5 would have crippled the budgets of these small communities and made it difficult for them to survive.

Things are far from perfect, but they are much different than before. The 24:1 community is living proof of what can be achieved when people realize their collective power and start working together. When people decide it’s time to act because no one else will. When everyone understands that an investment in part of a community is a step forward for the collective whole.

This is an example that our region must follow.

In my last article, I wrote that if a St. Louis renaissance were to occur, it would begin within our underresourced communities. We have invested heavily in Saint-Louis over the past few years. As Midwest BankCentre President and CEO Orvin Kimbrough recently said at a beyond-housing event sponsored by the St. Louis Business Journal, “If we really take aspects of our region that have been left behind, we are going to be a world-class city once again.

No matter where we live in this region, we are part of a greater whole. A whole that is only as strong as all of us put together.

When the rest of St. Louis understands this as well as members of the 24:1 community, we will finally move our region forward, once and for all.

Chris Krehmeyer is President and CEO of Beyond Housing.

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