THE WEST GROVE
Coconut Grove Village West is a historically Bahamian, 65-block, half-square-mile section of the better known Coconut Grove. Step outside of this section and you will find huge homes, an over-abundance of wealth, upscale shops and restaurants, known well by the tourists. But the West Grove has a stigma causing tourist books to caution visitors to be careful not to step into “the Black Grove.” In the late 1960s, social turmoil gripped the area as drugs and crime took a foothold in this once thriving African-American enclave. In 2002 more than 40 percent of 3,000 residents lived below the poverty level. Median household income was less than a third that of neighboring Coral Gables. At last count there were almost 200 abandoned buildings and vacant lots. (Taken from “West Side Story” by Robert C. Jones)
After 9 years in the West Grove, we believe the greatest needs expressed and felt by the community are: quality and affordable day care, services for single moms, drug/alcohol rehabilitation, affordable housing, job training, parenting training, services for the homeless, advocacy against gentrification, reaching the 12-25 year olds who are on the streets most of the time, and safe places for people to hang out especially in the evenings. The most vital need we see is for a solid, relevant, church that does not compromise the Word of God and for unified integrity filled leadership.
But we also see beauty in the West Grove. We live in a neighborhood where people spend much time outside; on the streets, sitting on chairs on the sidewalks or on their porches, or having BBQ’s. We see each other and know our neighbors and they know us. Others in the neighborhood want to see positive change and are working toward it.