by Elizabeth Semeraro
In the 1930’s my grandfather started a construction company in Chester that my family successfully ran until the city’s economic downturn in the 1950’s. My family represents just one of many middle and upper class homes that moved out of Chester when businesses in the area began to close. Chester is situated in a county that has high levels of income, is well educated, and does not experience extreme levels of poverty or violence. And yet, the city has incredibly low levels of income and education, and has high occurrences of poverty and violence. Systematically, this city has been isolated and shut out by the rest of the county; there have even been instances, driven by racism and classism, to disallow low income families of color from moving out the city and into the surrounding affluent neighborhoods. This isolation exacerbates the poverty driven violence and has enabled violence to become self-perpetuating within the city.
Chester lacks the economic and political advantages to enforce public safety and maintain the needed social and welfare programs to assist its many residents living below the poverty line. The contributes to a community-wide sense of fear, which in turn affects the residents’ sense of safety when traveling through public spaces in the city.
Without the external aid of the surrounding communities, there is little hope for Chester to turn its conditions around. For over a decade, Chester has gone without a grocery store within the city limits. This changed very recently when Philabundance, a community outreach program serving the greater Philadelphia area, established a nonprofit grocery store entirely dedicated to assisting the community and improving their quality of life.