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Daily Journal
     June 7, 2021      #80-158 KDJ

NIMBY has come to my neighborhood 

By Ron Jackson

NIMBY has come to my neighborhood. Never would I have imagined the “Not In My Backyard” attitude would be exhibited in the 7th Ward and in particular the Marycrest neighborhood.

The NIMBY phenomena is the opposition by members of a community to the location of an entity deemed undesirable.

NIMBY started about 50 years ago in northern California when residents began opposing development they considered potentially harmful to the value of residential property. Airports and nuclear developments are often the subject of opposition.

The success of early NIMBY communities spread across the country and has finally made its way to Marycrest. Something much smaller than an airport, nuclear plant or even a truck stop has led to a form of nimbyism. A local nonprofit, ministry-based organization with a 15-year record of helping people overcome drug addiction is seeking to locate its residential program in Marycrest.

L’SOM Ministries found what it considered an ideal location in the 300 block of North Saint Joseph Avenue. With the support of the Catholic Church, L’SOM would be using a church property to provide housing and ministry to eight recovering drug addicts. Plans have been submitted to the City of Kankakee Planning Commission and is up for a final vote at the next full council meeting.

Did someone say drug addicts would be coming to Marycrest? That won’t happen if a group of NIMBY residents have their way.

Drug addicts aren’t allowed in Marycrest. They won’t have it. There are children and seniors and property values to protect. On the surface that sounds so altruistic. Who can fault a community for wanting to protect its greatest assets?

A Thursday evening gathering was called to garner support for the opposition of the approval of the program locating in Marycrest. In attendance were both 7th Ward aldermen who did their best to explain the legal process and the possible consequences if the city made a discriminatory decision. The fiduciary responsibility of the city’s elected body was irrelevant. As was the record of the program’s history and the voices of support by the members of the court, law enforcement, county officials, a former Kankakee mayor and other social service agencies.

Oh, how quickly the oppressed become the oppressor. “I don’t like it.” “I don’t want it.” “I don’t care.” “I’m not feeling it.” “Move it somewhere else in the city.” Those were the prevailing defenses against the program coming to Marycrest. Either forgotten or unknown by those at the gathering, those same defenses were used to discriminate against blacks looking to move into certain sections of cities. Ultimately those discriminatory defenses led to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made it illegal to deny housing based on race, religion and national origin.

I live on the same street as the proposed program. A mere few hundred feet from it. I do not share the same safety concerns that many in the meeting echoed. Recovering drug addicts in a regulated, last-chance opportunity should not warrant a biased safety concern by a community, especially when that concern is born out of personal fear. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are already drug addicts walking the Marycrest neighborhood. There are prostitutes, too. And sex offenders. And illegal motorbikes speeding through the hood. I cannot be the only person to witness this regular activity.

In a crowd of public professed Christians who adamantly opposed giving needy individuals a second chance in their community, forgot one particular, indisputable mandate, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40.

The truly humble will bend down to help those who cannot return the favor. Maybe in wards 1-6.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com.

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