Phase 1

Introduction to the Brickville Community

Phase 1: Engage with the Client System

Introduction to the Brickville Community

History and Background

Brickville is a major metropolitan area with considerable strengths, including a proud history, considerable community identity, and institutions invested in Brickville’s future. However, there are challenges in Brickville as well, many of which stem from generations of disinvestment by the state and regional governments. Dating back to the mid-1800s, the area has been a residential community for workers laboring in the brick plant that gave the city its name. Originally operating with a mostly European immigrant workforce, after Emancipation, the brick company recruited free Blacks who were looking for employment opportunities in the North. This stable manufacturing employment brought opportunities for upward mobility for many workers. However, although they worked for the same company, the housing and educational opportunities available to Black workers never equaled those extended to their white colleagues. While generations of Black families were able to purchase homes in Brickville over the 120 years of the plant’s operation, these houses were concentrated in narrow neighborhoods, resulting in overcrowding that contributed to lower property values. New highway construction in the 1970s also cut through these primarily Black areas of Brickville, displacing families, many of whom relocated permanently after the brick plant closed in 1973.

The facilities for the brick company are still standing but have decayed considerably. There has also been substantial deterioration of the housing stock in several parts of Brickville, although an area somewhat proximate to the highway has recently seen some new arrivals and associated rehabilitation. The businesses in the area are mostly locally owned, with a few national chain gas stores and payday loan stores. However, there are several empty storefronts along the central streets in Brickville, as well as abandoned houses that the city has not yet made available for auction.

Demographics of current community residents

The community is made up mostly of Black (70%) and Latinx (25%) households. Many of these families live near poverty, although there is a solid middle-class population, as well, most of the members of which work in education, local government, or health care. In recent years, a handful of predominantly white newcomers (5%) have arrived, most of whom are either are self-employed artists or young professionals who work in nearby communities. Some have opened small businesses. Their intentions to rebuild the community bring the simultaneous promise of new economic development and the threat of gentrification, the latter of which has already pushed some long-time residents out of Brickville blocks where the rents have risen and/or the number of available dwellings has declined.

Many Black residents have lived in the community for generations and consider Brickville to be a tight-knit family. Resentful of public and private disinvestment and concerned about scarce job opportunities, they nonetheless strongly identify with Brickville’s past, present, and future.

Despite these substantial ties, to attain better housing, schools, and economic opportunities, many residents have moved away, returning to Brickville only for the annual Founders’ parade and picnic each fall.

Demographic changes that came with the arrival of Latinx residents in the 1960s were accommodated fairly smoothly by Brickville residents. These new residents, many of whom worked in the brick plant initially before taking jobs in other manufacturing or service sectors, participated actively in the area’s school system and founded two churches that still have strong membership. Additionally, most residents of color have good relationships with long-time white residents, some of whom come from families that worked in the factories and are now mostly in the low-wage labor market, and some of whom work in faith-based or secular social service organizations that serve the Brickville community.

Fractures have arisen with the more recent demographic changes to Brickville, including the arrival of wealthier white residents with interests in buying inexpensive homes, and rehabilitating them, and the newer Latinx immigrants who have come to Brickville, few of whom have substantially integrated with other residents.

My Engage Tasks

Task 1

Read the description of YOU, the social worker/city resident at the center of this case. Note your multifaceted role and your personal relationship to the redevelopment plan.

Task 2

Look at the photographs of the local organizations, accessed by clicking on the town map icon. It is important in the real world to be familiar with the town you're working in.

Task 3

Take some time to get to know your neighborhood and its environs by “walking” it in the “Explore The Town” tool. Social workers need to understand the “lived geography” of the places in which they work. What do you notice? For example, are there stores, agencies, or other services in walking distance of the residents? What are those? Is there a school nearby? In the real world, you would also want to observe the following: Are the buildings damaged? Do they appear habitable? Do the neighborhoods appear to have “mixed use” zoning (this can mean that the area is zoned for some combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, or other land uses)? What other elements of the city are of interest to you?