Residents Collaborate to Cool Down Phoenix

The Problem

Illegal dumping, graffiti, and litter were discouraging investment and negatively impacting the quality of life in vulnerable Phoenix neighborhoods. Additionally, the city regularly faces temperatures exceeding 110 degrees, increasing the risk of heat stroke and other health problems for residents who use public transportation or have inadequate cooling in their homes.  

The Solution 

Through the Cities of Service Love Your Block program, Phoenix awarded mini-grants to community groups to address blight in their neighborhoods and worked with them to increase the tree canopy in the city to help reduce temperatures. Over the course of the program, the city also developed a service plan focused on neighborhood revitalization, resilience, literacy, and access to healthy foods and aligned the mini-grant program with the plan. 

The Results 

With support from Cities of Service and Love Your Block AmeriCorps members, Phoenix awarded 24 mini-grants to block clubs and neighborhood organizations. Nearly 2,000 volunteers participated in Love Your Block projects throughout the city. 

  • Residents cleaned up 91 parks and vacant lots, removing 60,000 pounds of litter. 
  • Community groups removed graffiti from 118 sites and installed 97 art displays.
  • Community members in the Triangle neighborhood cleaned up Hu-O-Te Park and installed a mural, working with Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members to get paint and supplies.
  • The Urban Institute Love Your Block Study found that the project strengthened connections in the project area and created social capital for community members. Residents reported that they were more likely to look out for each other and felt a new sense of empowerment, reaching out to city officials for additional projects like installing a pedestrian crossing alert system at a dangerous crosswalk. 
  • The city has connected with groups that represent residents from historically marginalized communities, such as People United Fight Back Neighborhood Association (PUFB). After the completion of PUFB’s first project planting desert-adapted plants in south Phoenix, the city asked the organization to participate in another tree-planting program. As a result, nearly 200 trees have been planted by volunteers throughout the neighborhood. 
  • The Love Your Block program is now a permanent part of the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department, and the department created a nonprofit arm called Helping Phoenix Neighborhoods in order to facilitate fundraising and mini-grant disbursement. 
  • City officials reported that Love Your Block built bridges from city government to communities, which helps them work together on future projects and promotes ongoing dialogue. 
  • Phoenix successfully applied for $60,000 in funding to sustain the program as well as an additional AmeriCorps VISTA member. 


Keys to Success

Highly committed city staff and Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members were intentional about connecting with other city departments, neighborhood residents, and partner organizations to increase their impact. 

  • The Love Your Block team in Phoenix reached out to non-English speaking and immigrant communities. For example, the city team partnered with the Mountain Park Health Center to reach members of the Somali community. They also made sure that all important Love Your Block documents were translated into Spanish. 
  • The city team created strong and sustained partnerships with organizations like Keep Phoenix Beautiful and Hands on Greater Phoenix, which helped them recruit volunteers in diverse communities and plan and implement projects. 
  • The city connected Love Your Block with Resilient PHX – another program funded by Cities of Service – to increase impact, specifically addressing the lack of shade in low-income communities. To date, the two teams are responsible for more than 300 trees being planted in Phoenix by citizen volunteers.
  • City staff leveraged over $100,000 in financial and in-kind resources during the three-year grant period. 

“[The LYB project] got everyone going, ‘Hey, we can do this? We can find grants and call the city and they’ll bring us tools?’ I didn’t know we could do that. I didn’t know the city would help bring us tools so we could do stuff. Because we did that [LYB] project, we learned that we have more resources than we thought.”

– Phoenix resident & Love Your Block volunteer