On a sunny morning in Ferguson, the boarded up windows along West Florissant Avenue are starting to vanish, replaced with sheets of hopeful-looking glass.
But for many residents, the damage of the past months won’t be easily repaired. Although nonprofit groups have swooped in to offer aid in Ferguson, many residents are still reeling from the past two months of protests, property damage, and violence at night.
The days and nights tend to be calmer now than they were in August. But for Christianna Jennings, the anger is still there.
“We were having to stay with family members in the surrounding area until two in the morning before we could get to the comfort of our home,” said Jennings, who lives in the Canfield Green apartments with her fiancé and two children.
Even though she’s supportive of the protesters' messages, Jennings said the first weeks after the shooting were horrible. She struggled to find transportation to her job as a retail supervisor at the Cardinals Team Store in Busch Stadium because coworkers refused to drive her home late at night and buses were often rerouted or late.
“One bus gets me to work on time, if I miss that bus, I’m late to work,” Jennings said.
A few weeks into the protests, she lost her job.
“I was working for the Cardinals, I thought it was an understanding organization, when it all came down to it, they let me go. And I understand a business has to run and things of that nature, but this is a life-changing event,” Jennings said.
A spokesperson for the Cardinals Team Store said it’s not the company’s policy to fire someone based on transportation difficulties.
Aid Organizations Are A Force in Ferguson
Jennings’ story is not unique, according to Miranda Jones of Better Family Life. The nonprofit has set up a tent next to the Canfield apartments twice a week, so residents can pick up supplies or see a counselor.
Jones said some residents have asked that she call their employers to explain the difficulties of getting to and from work. She estimated at least 20 people have asked her to vouch for them.
“I don’t think people realize how many people lost their jobs or hours during that time because they couldn’t get in and out of their houses,” Jones said.
This week, Better Family Life began moving in to a more permanent location in the Liberty Tax building on West Florissant Avenue. Coordinator William Hardrick said they’re planning to stay at least three months.
“We’ll be up there doing case management, job training, some resume writing skills and still also the food pantry,” Hardrick said. A church drops off donations of canned goods and diapers regularly.
Right now, Hardrick estimates Better Family Life is serving about 200 people in the Canfield and Northwinds Apartments each week. Three times as many people stopped by the Better Family Life tent during the first two weeks after the shooting, when stores were closed, public transit was limited and residents were mourning the loss of a neighbor and friend.
But even with fewer people to help, Hardrick said there’s still a long road ahead before Ferguson rebuilds.
“When this whole situation happened, it put a spotlight on the need in Ferguson. These people need help. They need jobs; they need resources; they need money; they need daycare; they need childcare assistance.”
Despite Lull in the Intensity of Protests, Residents Hope to Leave
But even with the help coming in, many people are eager to move out of the neighborhood.
Near their home in the Northwinds Apartments, LaCresia Lane is taking a walk with her 3-year-old son, Charles. Lane grew up in Ferguson, but plans to move away as soon as she can. She knows many of her neighbors intend to do the same.
“I’m going to move to get away from it, but I don’t want to because I don’t think I should have to get ran out of where I stay,” Lane said.
She said she worries that the protests will escalate if the officer who shot Michael Brown is not indicted.
“If there isn’t justice, then everything is going to go up in smoke. That’s the only thing that I’m afraid of, and that I fear, for my son,” Lane said.