Despite some of the news and commentary out there, there are new developments on the affordable housing front in Hamilton County. It’s just that not all of them involve sticks and bricks. Our engagement with local stakeholders and the blossoming of partners across different sectors is very encouraging. Of course, we are building 14 units where folks will soon be able to move into, but this isn’t an update about those.
One of the best things to come out of the summer has been a groundswell of support for the notion of affordable housing in Hamilton County. More than 100 people signed a letter to support efforts to change the State’s policy regarding the allocation of funds to build affordable housing. HAND put forth an argument that low income housing is too often clustered in areas with little economic opportunity, and that the State should recognize the presence of jobs, quality schools, and a healthy environment when deciding where low income housing should be built. This argument resonated locally, but it is also playing out nationally.
In June, the Supreme Court actually ruled on a case and found that the state of Texas did not adequately account for these variables and actually contributed to the concentration of poverty. This sparked a national debate, and “disparate impact” will continue to be a hot policy topic for our community to consider. Unfortunately, despite the many letters from elected officials, community leaders, and impassioned pleas from our very own residents, the State did not shift their policy significantly when adopting their 2016-17 allocation policy.
Nevertheless, the advocacy process earned us coverage in the IBJ and several meetings with local elected officials. As a direct result, it’s led to a more knowledgeable constituency in Hamilton County.
The second major development this summer has been the willingness of Family Promise of Central Indiana (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network) to provide more comprehensive wrap-around services in Hamilton County. Shelters often only serve individual adults but Family Promise is different. They keep families together and provide overnight refuge in safe, volunteer church facilities. During the day, Family Promise provides counseling support and referral services to help secure permanent housing.
They currently have about six congregations providing housing in Hamilton County, but their only day center is located in downtown Indianapolis. This means agencies who refer clients to Family Promise have to deal with the transportation issue, but it also means families may be permanently displaced to other communities. The programming provided by Family Promise could keep families in a supportive environment, reduce the need for a permanent homeless shelter in Hamilton County, and ultimately save hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
Family Promise needs at least twelve new congregations to step forward and commit to bringing this service to Hamilton County. HAND is very excited to support Family Promise and those Hamilton County churches step up to provide this invaluable service. There will be two informational sessions on
September 3rd at St. Mark’s United Methodist and at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ on September 10th. Please attend and encourage your place of worship to consider partnering with Family Promise.
The final highlight this summer is from planning our November 10th Neighborhoods NOW Conference on Housing and Community Development. Dozens of individuals have helped formulate the content and vision of the conference, and HAND is grateful to the groups who have signed on as supporters: Visit Hamilton County, MIBOR, Urban Land Institute and the City of Carmel, to name a few.
HAND cannot predict the final outcome of the Conference, but the process is very illuminating. There are more groups than most can imagine who have an interest in the creation of affordable housing in Hamilton County. People are motivated to support the cause for economic, social and environmental reasons, and the conference will bring these diverse groups together for a rich conversation. The conference is not the summit for HAND or the community, but it will serve as a base camp from which we intend to launch our next campaign from.
Will you join us?