The Allendale neighborhood of Shreveport, LA has a rich history of both good times and hardship. Neighborhood residents recall fond memories of a thriving, economically active Allendale during the 60s and 70s. The rise of drugs and the creation of the I-20 freeway (which runs near the Allendale neighborhood and cut it off from the rest of the city) combined with general migration to the suburbs in the decades that followed left the neighborhood with a depleted population and higher crime and poverty.
However, in the last ten years, Allendale has seen a resurgence of residents (especially Hurricane Katrina evacuees), new homeowners, and nonprofits that are invested in the community. Just in the last 15 years, Allendale has experienced a 54% reduction in crime (reported by the Shreveport Police Department). The momentum and dedication among residents is palpable.
But an expensive highway project threatens to shut that down. Today we’re sharing excerpts from interviews with neighborhood residents talking about their memories of the neighborhood and their hopes for its future.
The Golden Years
Several neighborhood residents have spent decades in Allendale. They shared their memories of a flourishing neighborhood with successful local businesses.
Dorothy Wiley founded the #AllendaleStrong neighborhood group and is a community activist in the area. She was born in St. Louis but relocated to Shreveport when her father passed away. “Allendale was a thriving community,” she explains. “We had insurance companies, funeral homes, gas stations, restaurants, stores, clubs, shoe shine places, hair parlors, bible stores... People used to come to Allendale to do and get whatever they wanted. When Allendale was thriving, downtown was thriving.”
Rosie Chaffold is a longtime resident of the neighborhood and the creator of the Allendale Garden of Hope & Love. She moved to Allendale around 1970. “I wanted a place where I felt safe, comfortable for me and my children, where they could go to school, church and downtown,” she says. “Allendale was the best place I could find based on my income. At the time [when I moved here] a lot of folks were moving out of Allendale and they had a lot of houses over here for sale. That’s when I bought the one I’m in.”
Chaffold recalls the way that the rise of drugs in the ‘80s hit Allendale hard: “Allendale was the main target. Everybody wanted to come and set up shop.” Mid-century migration to the suburbs had already decreased the neighborhood’s population and when drugs entered the picture, it sped up that out-migration. “Finally we got to a place where Allendale was just a neighborhood known for drugs, crime…You name it; it went on,” says Chaffold. Writing for Heliopolis—a Shreveport news outlet—Jennifer Hill explains, “between 1970 and 2000, Allendale lost two-thirds of its population.”
Wiley points to the creation of Interstate 20, which runs through the middle of Shreveport, as another culprit responsible for the decline: “When they put that freeway I-20 through here, it knocked everything out. It divided people, it moved people, it moved businesses out of the way. I felt like that was a part of the beginning of the destruction.”
Allendale quickly became known as a haven for drugs and criminal activity. Those outside that neighborhood avoided it.
And yet, in spite of this neglect, over the last 15 years, Allendale has seen a powerful revitalization brought on by residents who care deeply about their place and local nonprofits investing in the neighborhood.
Chaffold, whose community garden was a harbinger of this renewal saw the improvement happen gradually. “Little by little, things began to change,” she says. “Other residents began to come together with Community Renewal [a nonprofit] after building trust. Community Renewal treated us with love and respect, which gave us the desire to help ourselves. We began to feel so much better about ourselves and our community.”
The Fuller Center for Housing is another nonprofit that has helped build homes in Allendale and offers opportunities for first time homeownership. Terri Thrash is one resident who was able to participate in the building of her first home. She writes:
After one week, my house was built; all four walls up by the hands of many strangers that became like my family. My daughter stood with me as they handed me the key to our brand new home and we were in tears. It was the beautiful start of a new beginning. The process of seeing my home being built and being a part of it was overwhelmingly unbelievable and now every time I sit in the quiet of my home, I look around at these four walls and say, “Look at what faith and love did!” I put blood, sweat, and tears into building my home and to have someone say that they are looking to destroy the area that I call home, baffles me.
Commissioner Steven Jackson who represents Allendale at the Parish government remarked that today, he sees “a sense of pride and ownership” in the neighborhood.
While misperceptions about crime in the neighborhood persist from those who live in the surrounding city and suburbs, the data shows a decrease in crime over the last fifteen years that far surpasses citywide decreases. “When people ask why I’m in Allendale now I say, ‘Because it’s safe,’” Wiley explains.
Everyone I spoke with from the Allendale neighborhood expressed a love for their place and desire to remain there in peace—without a highway destroying the area. Louis Brossette, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood stated, “I love my community and the rich values and traditions we carry forward in this place. The current NLCOG proposed inner-city connector route of I-49 through Allendale will tear down our beautiful new homes. Limited access expressways like proposed by NLCOG should not destroy anyone's neighborhood.”
Chaffold expressed hope at the direction the neighborhood is moving in: “Once again, Allendale is becoming a community of beauty, prosperity, pride and hope,” she says. “I love my community and this is where I want to stay.”
Interviews conducted by Rachel Quednau, Terri Thrash, and Annette Simmons. Read more neighborhood stories here.
(All photos from Loop-It Facebook page)