“Businesses are afraid to invest in the community,” Spiller said.
Nonetheless, West Side United is trying to spark a recovery through job training, local hiring and housing development, along with expanding mental health services and increasing access to healthy food.
The coalition plans to implement an internship program that will help up to 1,000 local high school students learn about health information technology, finance, administration and other healthcare sectors. It is doling out $2.5 million into West Side efforts related to housing and job development. It's starting a small-business accelerator grant pool
Funding is coming from a combination of hospitals and a $1 million grant from an anonymous donor.
The group also pledged to hire more West Side residents and purchase more goods and services from area businesses.
The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, also on the West Side, has a housing program that places chronically homeless emergency department patients into permanent housing.
Ten Chicago-area hospitals also participate in the Chicago Heal Initiative, which was convened by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to tackle gun violence. The hospitals deliver counseling and behavioral health services and support affordable housing pilot programs. The group shares data to coordinate services, establishes community case management programs for victims of violence and trains employees to be aware of their implicit bias and become more culturally sensitive.
Nationally, only 11% of hospitals offered violence prevention programs for their communities, according to the American Hospital Association's 2016 annual survey.
Addressing these needs are critical, said Darlene Hightower, associate vice president of the office of community engagement at Rush. That's why members of West Side United will stay engaged, she said.
“We can tell you about the investments we've made in local business, the local people we've hired; but we still have to continue to build relationships,” Hightower said.