Life in the Meadows

“If Indianapolis hopes to stem rising crime, it can’t afford to ignore Edgemere Court or neighborhoods like it. City officials and community leaders must step up and sustain efforts to sweep away the mayhem and urban decay. As The Star’s Matthew Tully reports this week in a three-part series on Edgemere Court, the lack of concentrated effort is one reason why squalor continues to plague this neighborhood and other parts of the city. Community policing, which is a key in uniting residents and police officers in fighting crime, has fallen by the wayside. Job-training courses, mental health services and other programs once provided to Phoenix’s tenants by its former owner, are no longer available.”

My sister used to live in the Meadows for a time. She was in the middle of doing her “prodigal child” routine, but I still wanted to keep in touch with her, but I would only visit her only during the day. The level of squalor present, the sheer decay, represented an experiment gone bad. From the rampant crime, to the structural rot, to the entrenched poverty, society had turned its collective back on a portion of itself.

It was a symptom of a self-perpetuating problem. We need to address these problem areas aggressively rather than letting them fester and, in turn, become worse. Most of the solutions people seem to have amount to tear such places down or remodel the neighborhoods and have new people move in. Unfortunately, this amounts to little more than moving the problem rather than deal with it – kind of like chasing the homeless from downtown. We’re talking about a human problem requiring human solution and human connection.

There’s a perception that the poor want to live like this, that they are there because they are lazy or are there strictly as the result of their choices. The reality is that most want to transition out of the streets, from this way of life, but they were let down, if not abandoned, by the system.
How we treat the poor defines us as a culture and as a country. I believe that government needs to assist those unable to take care of themselves, but is that where we are and what we’ve been reduced to? I have to be honest in saying that a system that supports dependency without accountability hurts any community, especially a community burdened by institutionalized racism. The programs on the surface seem to help poor people. The intentions were good, but the solution and remedy was short-sighted.

God identifies with the poor and those in pain, liberating them from injustice. It’s the hope that says just as He reached out to the forgotten, those “outside” the establishment (religious or civil), we are to care for the “least of these”, widows, orphans, the poor. Our mission is to join with His, to relieve suffering and fight injustice because evil is real and ongoing. And our forgetting of the poor is just that: a preventable evil.

It’s easy to blame the poor. They are under-represented. There aren’t many political action committees, few professional lobbying, publicists in the media on their behalf. I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words “the poor you will always have with you.” Jesus’ story is the story of poverty: God humbling himself, becoming poor and weak. Human. In order to free the oppressed from poverty and powerlessness. Becomes a victim in our place (at the hands of a corrupt justice system no less) and transforms the condition of bondage. That doesn’t mean we get to simply quit caring about the poor.

Focus on Outreach, Inc.

Okay, I take back what I said about me not writing about some of my friends. I lie. I do that sometimes. I thought I’d highlight a friend who runs a parachurch ministry, Outreach, Inc.

Outreach, Inc. is a Christian ministry in Indianapolis reaching out to homeless and at-risk young adults with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Outreach accomplishes this by providing street outreach, a youth drop-in center, holistic social services, emergency/referral services and case management; operated in an environment of God’s love. We are dedicated to introducing the youth to a relationship with Jesus Christ and helping them to mature in that relationship. Outreach comes along side the church in helping it understand and fulfill the “Great Commission” on a local level by training, equipping and supporting the body of Christ and community to minister to this population, empowering the youth to exit the street life.

About 300 kids a year pass through their doors, most from the Indianapolis area. There’s a perception that these kids want to be out on the streets, that they are there because they are lazy or are there strictly as the result of their choices. The reality is that most want to transition out of the streets; that they were let down, if not abandoned, by the system. Outreach, Inc. works within and fills the cracks of that system.

There’s never a typical week for Outreach, Inc. Some of the things that occur weekly are their staff meeting on Mondays, client meetings on Wednesdays, and their Bible study on Thursdays. Then there are their afternoon drops, plus their evening drops on Thursay, Friday, Saturday evenings and street outreach. As you can imagine, it’s the unpredictability of the ministry that break any sense of routine (or IS the routine). The emergencies that pop up, meeting with the youth, going to court with them, helping their plans to transition from mediocrity to success – whether that means getting them food, clothing, bus passes, finding a job, or working one-on-one with them.

In other words, my new Intake column is up. “Focus on Outreach.” And we can’t forget the important work done by the volunteers of Outreach, Inc. Thank you, volunteers!