In an effort to improve and revitalize a community rocked by civil unrest five years ago in Ferguson, Mercy leaders are joining with other business leaders to address the needs along the West Florissant corridor – the heart of the community and the epicenter of protests and violence.
Health & Homes STL, a nonprofit organization led by Mercy executive vice president Donn Sorensen, has unveiled plans to address the needs of the Ferguson community. The first piece, already under construction, will be a new Boys & Girls Club Teen Center of Excellence to open in October, followed by a new Mercy health care hub, surrounded by 12,000 square feet of sidewalks, 17 new crosswalks, almost four miles of improved curbs and gutters, and much needed street lighting.
“We met with residents in southeast Ferguson and asked them to tell us what the community needs,” said Sorensen, who serves as CEO and board chair of Health & Homes, “Their hopes for the neighborhood included basic services such as adequate health care, better infrastructure and new economic opportunities. It’s about removing the barriers that cause isolation and replacing them with connections that provide options.”
The new development, called the WestFlo District, will reshape the corridor and serve as a hub for residents to work, live and play. The new Boys & Girls Club is a $12.4 million project that will provide three stories and more than 26,000-square-feet of space to serve 1,500 community members between the ages of 12 and 18.
Mercy plans to break ground by the end of the year on an 11,000-square-foot facility next to the Boys & Girls Club. The clinic will provide primary care and women’s services, as well as behavioral health services and other needed social services, including outreach to the surrounding residents. Dr. Daniel Whitehead will lead the team at the Mercy Clinic.
Health & Homes has currently raised $8 million and secured four acres of land. Longer term plans include the addition of better housing, a new Fields Foods grocery store, a Regions Bank branch and improved stormwater management.
The underlying effort is in line with the social determinants of health developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via Healthy People 2020. Factors include health and health care, economic stability, education and neighborhood environment.