Case Study Tools
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  • Assessment Matrix
  • Family Genogram
  • Family Ecomap
  • Community Sociogram
  • My Values
  • Notebook

Phase 1: Engage with the Client System

Introduction to the Brickville Community

  • History and Background

    Brickville is a major metropolitan area that has suffered from generations of disinvestment and decay. Dating back to the mid1800s, the area has been a residential community for generations of low-income African American residents. The major employer for the community was a brick plant, which gave rise to the name “Brickville” for the community. Originally operating with a mostly European immigrant workforce, after Emancipation, the brick company recruited African Americans from the American South to move north to work in the brick plant and built company housing for the workers and their families. Over the 120 years that the brick plant operated, some workers were able to purchase their homes, while other workers rented their homes from the brick company. When the plant closed down in 1973, company representatives told the remaining renters that they now owned their rented homes, an arrangement that was supposed to substitute for any financial compensation for the laid-off workers. However, the property titles were never transferred from the company to the families.

    The facilities for the brick company are still standing but have decayed and been looted to such a degree that the buildings are both an eye-sore and a public danger for the community. There has been significant deterioration of all of the housing stock, with many abandoned structures. The businesses in the area are mostly locally owned but poorly maintained, with a few national chain gas stores and payday loan stores.

  • Demographics of current community residents

  • The community is made up mostly of low-income African Americans (70%) and Hispanics (25%). In recent years, a handful of predominantly white newcomers (5%) have arrived. Calling themselves “urban pioneers,” many are self-employed artists or young professionals who work in nearby communities. Some have opened restaurants or other small businesses to cater to this segment of the Brickville population. They are committed to rebuilding the community, bringing 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 particular Brickville blocks where the rents have risen and/or the number of available dwellings has declined.
  • Many African American residents have lived in the community for generations and consider Brickville to be a tight-knit family. Resentful of city, state, and private enterprise 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 from the neighborhood.
  • Demographic changes that came with the arrival of Latinos in the 1960s were accommodated fairly smoothly by Brickville residents. 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 unemployed or 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, dilapidated homes, and rehabilitating them both to inhabit and sell, and the newer Latino immigrants who have come to Brickville, few of whom have substantially integrated with other residents.
  • Many long-term residents have a deep devotion to the community and distrust “outsiders.” There are concerns that some of these newcomers may exploit the poverty and political powerlessness of community residents for political or monetary gain and that others may take jobs and social service resources already too scarce to meet Brickville’s needs.

My Engage Tasks

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.

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.

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?