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Coping with Poverty - The Value of Nature in Urban Public Housing (94-G-142)

Grant Number

A study of social behavior outdoor activities in urban settings with and without urban forests (trees).

Cities are characterized by a host of social ills — from anonymity, to incivility, to outright violence — that are strikingly less prevalent in rural areas. Why is this? Some have suggested that the physical environment in cities,crowding, noise, lack of nature may contribute to these social ills. In this study, we ask: can part of the unsociableness of city dwellers be traced to the lack of trees in their everyday surroundings? We set out to answer these question in one of the grimmest of urban settings — the Chicago Housing Authority's Robert Taylor Homes.

The number of trees immediately outside each of the 28 buildings at Robert Taylor Homes vary considerably. Some of the buildings are surrounded by only concrete and asphalt, while others have trees, grass, and even flowers. Using aerial photographs and on-site analysis, we chose 10 buildings with trees and eight buildings without trees. We then conducted in-depth interviews with women living in those buildings about their social behavior, and compared the answers from women living in different buildings. We also observed and compared resident's outdoor activities in areas at Robert Taylor Homes where there were trees, and where there we no trees.

Do people who live in, or nearby, the urban forest get along, and treat each other better, than people who have very little contact with the urban forest? This study, which show they do, provides considerable support for
urban forest programs.

Sullivan, William C.
(217) 333-0176
Human-Environment Research Laboratory (HERL)
University of Illinois
101 Temple Hoyne Buell Hall
611 Lorado Taft Drive, MC-620
Champaign, Illinois 61820
Total Project Cost
$ 375,534
Federal Share
$ 180,000
Grantee Share
$ 195,534
Year of Award
Year of Expiration
FS Manager
Suzy del Villar
USDA Forest Service
1042 Park West Court
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
Grant Categories
Model Municipal & Volunteer Programs , None
Social and Cultural Impacts, Poverty
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