PEORIA (HOI) - A recent study by the Economic Innovation Group lists the 61605 zip code among the "most distressed in the country" with a poverty rate of 44%, which is triple the national average. Roughly one in five houses are vacant.
During a press conference at Trewyn Park Tuesday, First District City Council Member Denise Jackson, who represents that zip code, said she wants to bring awareness to the challenges the neighborhood is facing.
"I liken it to a child who's been neglected," Jackson said. "If you don't feed that child, that child gets weak. And it's subject to die. There are folks who say were suffering. We're suffering down here."
Jackson said high-dollar projects like the Western Avenue and MacArthur Highway reconstruction will help rejuvenate the area, but it's just a start.
Jackson and Peoria Park District Board Trustee Alex Sierra is inviting all Peoria residents to take part in a tour around the district to get a firsthand view of vacant lots being used for illegal dumping, the lack of sidewalks, poor road conditions, and more.
"We hope that as you come and tour the first district that you will develop empathy, compassion, and concern for the families that live here," Jackson said.
She said divestment on the south side does play a role in rising crime. She said she's also with the park district to try to deal with the social, emotional, and mental ills of the uptick in violence.
Sierra said the best way to address the violence in the city is to get to the root of the issues and providing more jobs and entertainment for the community.
"We cannot continue to remain stagnant and comfortable with stagnant conversations that has been repeated for generations," Sierra said.
The tours will begin at 10 a.m. Aug. 7 at Trewyn Park and continue every Saturday until Sept. 25.