Strengthening Communities in Seattle with Art Installations and Trash Cleanups

The Problem 

Litter and the prevalence of graffiti in vulnerable Seattle neighborhoods contributed to a sense that streets were unsafe. The city also identified a number of local problems, such as broken street lights and illegal dumping, through Find It, Fix It Walks, a neighborhood outreach program in which the mayor walked through neighborhoods with residents to learn about and identify problems and potential solutions.

The Solution 

Seattle connected its Cities of Service Love Your Block program with the Find It, Fix It Walks. The city provided mini-grants to community groups in areas targeted by the walks–neighborhoods that had high rates of poverty and crime–to help them address the problems they noted on the walks and to implement other projects that would help revitalize their neighborhoods. Additionally, the city’s Community Engagement Coordinators helped connect the city with community groups and served as a point of contact for residents. 

The Results

With support from Cities of Service and Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members, the city awarded 36 mini-grants to block clubs and neighborhood groups. 

  • More than 300 volunteers participated in lot cleanups, creating art installations, and other projects that reduced blight and increased public safety, such as adding lighting and cleaning up alleyways. 
  • Residents removed almost 10,000 pounds of litter, installed 16 flower beds, and created 15 art installations. 
  • In South Park, the city partnered with a small business association to help them purchase tools and organize regular clean-ups in the area. 
  • The majority of the projects funded with the mini-grants addressed problems identified during the Find It, Fix It Walks, such as graffiti and litter-strewn vacant lots. 

Keys to Success

Strong partnerships between the Department of Neighborhoods, which led Love Your Block, and other departments in city government, was an important part of the program’s success. The added capacity provided by Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members strengthened the existing Find It Fix It Walks and enabled frequent communication with residents. 

  • Interdepartmental team meetings were held pre- and post-Find It, Fix It Walks. These meetings included representatives from different city departments, including the Department of Neighborhoods, who discussed common concerns and found solutions during the meetings. Members of the interdepartmental team provided technical and field support, resources for community projects, information on capital projects, and the status of reported neighborhood concerns to the Love Your Block team.
  • The Find It, Fix It Walks created opportunities for unfiltered, authentic conversations between underrepresented and underserved city residents of Seattle and the mayor, city staff, and city department leaders. The integration of the Cities of Service Love Your Block program strengthened the existing program by providing mini-grants to address the problems. Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members provided additional outreach capacity. 
  • By providing residents with the contact information for city staff and city-run programs on the Find It, Fix It Walks and in the reports, city staff helped ensure that community members had the information and resources they needed to encourage further action and engagement. 
  • City staff recruited volunteers from the target Love Your Block communities to serve on a 16-member Community Involvement Commission, which was tasked with helping city departments reach all residents, including those who were low-income people and/or homeless, and renters who had been historically underrepresented. The commission provided feedback and advice to city staff about its engagement initiatives and resident outreach efforts. 

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the community projects come to life! In our first neighborhood, we’ve seen the start of a new mural on a community center, compost bins and rain barrels for the community garden, and new lights on a gazebo that community members like to use in the local park. It’s been amazing to see what the neighborhood is capable of doing!”

Hilary Nichols, Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA member