September 2023


Listening to the Community

For the past six months, the staff of the Kankakee Economic and Community Development Agency have gathered at a different location in each of Kankakee’s seven wards on the second Thursday of the month to hear from residents in what we call our “Community Conversations.”

Above all else, the Community Conversations are ECDA’s opportunity to hear from and speak with the residents of the city. The City of Kankakee is the only entitlement community in Kankakee County, and receives an annual allocation of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding. The use of this money is guided by the desires of residents, especially folks who are low- to moderate-income. Each year, we submit an Annual Action Plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), explaining what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year. HUD is most interested in what residents see, think, and want, which is what makes the Community Conversations the most important tool we have; it’s our best opportunity for hearing from you.

Hosted by Community Outreach Coordinator Samantha Rocknowski, residents are asked to tell us about their vision for what Kankakee could be, and what they think is holding it back. Each month, we asked every attendee what their top four priorities for the city were, and from the 49 unique priorities, we grouped these into five broad topics: mobility improvements, economic issues, environmental concerns, government communication, and livability improvements.



We heard residents discuss their desire to have better communication from the city, the need for increased business and entrepreneurship support, the impact of well-kept properties in neighborhoods, and where road and sidewalk improvements would make the most difference, among many other priorities. We could write a whole essay about the interesting things that Kankakeeans had to say, but we’ll keep it short and focus on one that almost everyone had something to say about: livability.

By and large, the residents who attended the Community Conversations enjoy living in Kankakee and want to see it improve and grow. The priorities we heard about the most were crime prevention and public safety, having more activities and things to do within city limits, and increasing supportive services. But we also heard about issues like difficult accessing child care and healthy foods.



While the data we’ve gathered so far has been illuminating and will help us as we prepare our next Annual Action Plan, it isn’t complete yet! We still have two meetings left this year, and would love to hear from everyone, so if you haven’t joined us before, you are invited to join us on:


Thursday, September 14, 2023 at 6pm at City Life Center (1820 E Court Street)


Thursday, October 12, 2023 at 6pm at the Kankakee Public Library (201 E Merchant Street)


Every resident is welcome, regardless of the ward you live in. We hope you’re able to join us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the ECDA at 815-933-0506 or email us at


This blog post was written by CDBG Program Manager Marlena Temple-Kalafut. 


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