Demographics & Quick Facts


  • East St. Louis, IL is one of the poorest cities in America; residents are 97% African American;
  • 70% of households are headed by women; 45% of residents live below the poverty level. (US Census Quick Facts)
  • Most of the ESL parents have not finished high school.
  • Population dropped from 82,000 in the 1950’s to about 27,000, leaving a desolate environment of abandoned buildings and crumbling infrastructure. Pervasive poverty, homelessness, violence, drug addiction, and a failing school system create a sense of hopelessness.
  • Common for our families are food scarcity, eviction, and utility shut-offs.
  • Also common for our families sadly is knowing someone who has died by gun shot. East St. Louis has one of the highest murder rates in the country.

Quick Facts

  • Join Hands is a small, community based not-for-profit organization, founded in 1990 to serve children and families in East St. Louis, Illinois.  We currently have approximately 225 adults and children in our programs, and many more who regularly walk through our doors for hospitality, coffee and peace at the Ubuntu Center.
  • Our focus is relationships with families, parents and children, because we have learned and research shows that “family engagement is a ‘rich resource’ for student success.” (Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler, 2005) By prioritizing education and walking with families, we provide our families a pathway out of poverty.
  • We focus on education because studies have shown, “For families headed by someone with less advantageous inherited demographic characteristics (younger than 40, African American, with parents who did not go to college), completion of a four-year degree typically boosts income and wealth far above the levels they would have achieved without a degree.” The Demographics of Wealth: How Education, Race and Birth Year Shape Financial Outcomes.
  • Join Hands is an approved Scholarship Granting Organization for the State of Illinois Invest in Kids Act, which provides IL taxpayers a 75% state tax credit for donations to SGOs for education.
  • Join Hands ESL partners and collaborates with many organizations, including East Side Aligned, which is a collaborative impact effort in East St. Louis, bringing local organizations together to better serve the needs of the children of East St. Louis.
  • Join Hands ESL utilizes a unique approach to impact the lives of children and families, not only prioritizing education, but also providing after school and weekend activities, resulting in Join Hands ESL being one of the larger out of school time providers in East St. Louis.