Update from College Hill

It’s been quiet on the Hill in North St. Louis: And we plan to keep it that way.

When the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation (Lutheran Housing Support) first stepped onto the scene in the North St. Louis neighborhood of College Hill, the neighborhood was regularly featured in the St. Louis area evening news. But in 2007 and 2008 the news reports told the story of a neighborhood collapsing under the weight of poverty and crime. The word “murder” or “robbery” or “arson” was often next to the name “College Hill” in the headlines.

“We can replace dilapidated houses, but would you buy a home in a neighborhood where murder and other serious crimes such as robbery and arson are common?” asked Fred Kimbrough, Director of Projects and Lending for Lutheran Housing Support. That’s why safety initiatives became a central part of our work over the last few years, along with the construction of new homes and owner-occupied rehabilitation initiatives.

Lutheran Housing Support set about the task, therefore, of eliminating blight by tearing down abandoned homes, targeting those which had been the haven for drug activity and identifying an area which became Phase 1 of the Nazareth Homes Development. These initiatives have included the installation of security cameras integrated into the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center. The Neighborhood Ownership Model (NOM) Plan which Lutheran Housing Support developed in coordination with residents included training with the police and other emergency responders and other activities designed to build positive relationships in the community.

The result: criminal activity of every type is down nearly 45% in the past five years and 70% in the decade since Lutheran Housing Support has been active in College Hill. And, even better, December, 2016, marked the 14th month without a homicide in the neighborhood! Prior to 2016, it was not uncommon for College Hill to experience a month with two or three reported homicides and a year with up to six.

Property crime is down even more dramatically. A decade ago there would be reports of 250 or more property crimes in a year. This past year the neighborhood reported fewer than 75! Since there are approximately 400 households in the neighborhood, this makes a dramatic impact on residents’ way of life. In 2008 it was likely that you or your neighbor would be the direct victim of criminal activity. Now it is more likely that you will NOT be the victim of such criminal activity.

It’s been a quiet year on the Hill in North St. Louis. And Lutheran Housing Support and the residents and other stakeholders who have been working with us are a large part of the reason why!