“God put me in this position. . . as far as substance abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, divorce, school dropout, teen pregnancy, all of these different things that you think about in a community, have either happened to me or someone in my family. So who else to better speak up for the community or bring the community together?”
—LaToya, resident of Carriage House East in the city’s Far Eastside
Although there has been much focus on and development in neighborhoods close to the downtown core, communities further out are often overlooked. This month’s episode of For Good focuses on the Far Eastside and how its residents are stepping up to make change happen in their neighborhood. Both Mount Carmel Church and the Collective Impact Council are featured in this episode for their place-based initiatives that are giving residents a new sense of hope.
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Transcription of episode available below.
WHO YOU’RE LISTENING TO
Kim Jacobs – WFYI Media
LaToya Tahirou – resident at Carriage House East
Annie Smith – CICF community ambassador
Alicia Collins – director of community collaborations at CICF
Tanya Johnson – chief of staff at Mount Carmel Church
Ellie Lindhem – service coordinator manager at Carriage House East Apartments
Glick Fund at CICF
Groundbreaking for Carriage House East Resident Success Center in The Indianapolis Star
Learn more about our community ambassadors
CAFE (Community Alliance for the Far Eastside)
Click to enlarge map. Map created by Naplab. Learn more about the map and where you can get one for yourself here.
Welcome to For Good, Central Indiana Community Foundation’s podcast highlighting stories about passion, purpose, and progress in Central Indiana. At CICF we believe in opportunity and equity. We believe that our communities and neighborhoods are stronger because of our diversity. And we believe that with innovation and boldness, Central Indiana can be a place where everyone can reach their full potential, no matter their place, race or identity. This is our community and these are your stories.
When veterans came home after World War II, the Indianapolis Far Eastside neighborhood grew by leaps and bounds. There were jobs at Western Electric, Chrysler, and Ford.
LATOYA TAHIROU: It was much quieter. If you look at now and then, you would allow your kids to go outside and play comfortably.
LaToya Tahirou grew up on the Far Eastside. She lives here now. But life is different for LaToya’s own three children.
LATOYA TAHIROU: This neighborhood has definitely changed. There is … there’s not a day that I don’t come home I don’t see police. It’s just like you hear [inaudible 00:01:04]. Okay, oh, well, I’ve become numb and used to it.
Change came as the manufacturing plants shut their doors. Smaller businesses and neighborhood decline followed.
LATOYA TAHIROU: 42nd and Post, Oaktree was abandoned all these years and has been sitting as an eyesore. The grocery stores leave. The banks leave. It’s like this … It’s becoming a ghost town. John Marshall is closing now. It’s like this community is continually going down and it’s like we’re not a priority on the city’s radar.
Some people have moved out, but many more are now uniting to become a positive force for change in the Far Eastside neighborhood.
ANNIE SMITH: I think we’ve been overlooked for years.
Annie Smith is one of 36 ambassadors recruited to help the Central Indiana Community Foundation better understand the opportunities and challenges here.
ANNIE SMITH: Too often, I think we, we listen to people, and community people and people that live in neighborhoods, they can tell you what they need, but we don’t ever see anything actually come to fruition, and I think that’s what’s important with this work, and I believe CICF is on that track.
Through her community interviews as CICF ambassador, Annie Smith found neighbors stepping up to make a change in a variety of ways.
ANNIE SMITH: They’re willing to fight for it. They’re willing to be part of a collaboration where everyone’s on the same page, we’re in the same thing, learning about what each other’s doing, and making the Far Eastside so beautiful that everyone wants to move, live, and work and play here.
Annie talked to several people who are part of a place-based renewal strategy which engages neighbors and helps them address issues. Here’s Alicia Collins, director of community collaborations for CICF.
ALICIA COLLINS: You focus on a neighborhood specifically, and you build and work with the assets that are there and the residents there, and then you start to look at the measurement outcomes from those connections and relationships, and then you ripple that out into the next area that you want to see change in.
The neighborhood created the Collective Impact Council to organize and lead its own interventions, 18 people who meet monthly. But this just isn’t another group of outsiders making decisions, it consists of community organizations, businesses, and people who live here.
ALICIA COLLINS: We have three robust resident leaders on the council and they are speaking up, they are making sure that they understand what’s going on.
LaToya is one of the residents on the council.
LATOYA TAHIROU: God put me in this position. Not personally, but as far as substance abuse, as far as sexual abuse, mental abuse, divorce, school drop out, teen pregnancy, all of these different things that you think about in a community have either happened to me or someone in my family. So who else to better speak up for the community or bring the community together to hear and have a voice to better this community?
So far, the council has launched an engagement center at the Boys & Girls Club to serve 18 to 24-year-olds, primarily African American males who are not employed, enlisted, or in school. Council members are trying to address the food and banking deserts here too.
TANYA JOHNSON: I think the challenge has been that people have been doing things in the community and not really knowing who was doing what.
Tanya Johnson, chief of staff at Mt. Carmel Church, also on the council, says the group helps build effective relationships between stakeholders.
TANYA JOHNSON: And I think it gives them, you know, the sense of pride and ownership and, as things progress, they see that they’ve been a part of that difference-making and it just gives them that sense of hope.
Annie Smith, that CICF ambassador, gathered much of her information from members at Mt. Carmel Church.
ANNIE SMITH: We’re in the heart of where the greatest need is, and I think that’s what really makes us a community church. There are families here in this church who’ve grown up in the church, one generation after another, and you’ll see and you feel that presence here.
The church is also taking action. It’s launched four initiatives to help transform the Far Eastside, an all boys charter school, a federal credit union, community gardens, and a food co-op.
ANNIE SMITH: There’s a lot of work to be done and we’ll just have to take it piece by piece.
Why an all boys charter school? IPS’s John Marshall Community High School was recently closed. Next year, students will be bused across town to attend high school. Many are already falling through the cracks.
TANYA JOHNSON: This area particularly, about 30% has a high school diploma or the equivalency, and less than 35% has some college but no degree. There is a big educational gap here on the Far Eastside.
A public charter school could provide innovative curriculum to better prepare students and that will help the economy, key in this neighborhood, where at least three banks have closed.
TANYA JOHNSON: The closest bank now is at 42nd and Franklin, which is still a considerable distance for this immediate community.
Poverty and high unemployment rates make the Far Eastside one of the most financially insecure areas in Indianapolis.
LATOYA TAHIROU: What, what happens is we have all these payday loan places everywhere, which is designed to, you know, it’s not designed to help anybody. When you get caught up in that system, you end up worse off than you were.
So the church is cultivating partners to start a federal credit union here.
LATOYA TAHIROU: Banks are not here. People are not educated on how to manage their finances. We need stuff like that. It seems like our community is set up to fail. You have no positive things like banks and grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
There’s another type of desert here, a food desert created with the closing of a major supermarket.
ANNIE SMITH: They’re walking, uh, to the closest that they can get to when they need the basic staples of bread and milk and eggs or going to go to the gas station.
LATOYA TAHIROU: The gas station, the prices are super high, what little bit of stuff they do. They try to have the staples like milk. Maybe they might have a bowl of fruit or cereal and this and that, but it’s like three times the price of what it should cost. It’s mainly junk.
Last year, Mt. Carmel sponsored a community garden to provide fresh produce.
TANYA JOHNSON: We’re learning that there are several other community gardens in the area, which is good because you want as many community gardens as possible.
Eventually, the church hopes to start a food co-op to sell surplus. Meanwhile, place-making collaboration led to another happy discovery, another business partner, just down 42nd Street, Carriage House East, a Glick Family Housing Foundation property.
ELLIE LINDHEM: Our community garden here, last year, harvested 700 pounds of produce and we just added four more beds to that garden this year.
This is Ellie Lindhem She’s the service coordinator at Carriage House East. With over 600 units, it’s one of the largest apartment complexes in the neighborhood.
ELLIE LINDHEM: Upon move-in, we meet with them and we say, “Here’s what a service coordinator is. You probably have never had this at another apartment complex. Here’s what we do. If you run into hard times, we can refer you to resources. If you’re looking for employment, you know, we’ve got relationships with employers.” At that point, we kind of ask them a series of questions, but what we’re doing is we’re trying to get a snapshot of where’s that resident and are there needs that they may have that we can help connect them to programs and services to help meet those needs.
LaToya lives in one of the townhomes here.
LATOYA TAHIROU: I’ve never seen a apartment complex so involved and, uh, invested in their residents. It’s like they genuinely want to see people turn their negatives in their lives, the struggles in their lives, and make it better. We have monthly newsletters that go out that will say what activities they have, what meetings they have to try to get residents involved, get their input. They give things like healthy eating classes, driver’s ed classes. They had a tutoring program. They offer so much to be able to help a person just turn their life around.
Service coordinators help keep people in their homes, and that contributes to a family’s stability.
ELLIE LINDHEM: It’s awesome when you realize you’ve contributed to their success. And, you know, we just had a resident come in the other day who was able to secure full-time employment from a referral he got from his service coordinator, and, you know, those are the wins.
Glick Philanthropies provide support for service coordinators at all Glick Family Housing Foundation properties, including Carriage House East. While residents are not required to participate in programs, many do.
ELLIE LINDHEM: While we don’t diagnose, what we do see is a lot of depression and hopelessness. And so what we are here to do is be that light, be that ray of light, and plant those seeds of hope.
The company recently broke ground for a new community center and greenhouse at Carriage House East. It will feature a new playground installed by local employer, Finish Line.
ELLIE LINDHEM: Mr. Glick, from day one, has always believed that, whether it’s affordable housing, you know, Section 8 or tax credit, that everybody deserves a beautiful place to live. We still carry out that legacy.
Ultimately, it is that pride of place that has engaged resident and eventually will renew the Far Eastside neighborhood.
ALICIA COLLINS: There’s a buzz and a humming of excitement and life in this area. And then there’s a new narrative for the Far Eastside, I would like to see that, that it’s being directed by the residents and not being prescribed by the folks from the outside. That is my hope, is a new narrative.
LATOYA TAHIROU: I believe young, old, Black, Hispanic, Caucasian, we all, at the end of the day, want a decent life. We want joy. We want happiness. We want to enjoy family, we … A little money wouldn’t hurt, you know [laughs]. It may look different in different ways, but everybody just wants peace.
ANNIE SMITH: We can’t fix everything, but we can come together and we can make a huge difference.
CICF is proud to be a part of the Collective Impact Council and in partnership with Glick Philanthropies, the Glick Company, and residents on the Far Eastside. By listening and working together, we can do more.
We are Central Indiana Community Foundation, and you’ve been listening to For Good. If you liked what you heard today, we hope you’ll subscribe to For Good on your favorite podcast app and, while you’re there, don’t forget to leave us a review. Join us next month for more stories about passion, purpose, and progress in Central Indiana.
For Good is brought to you by Central Indiana Community Foundation, in partnership with WFYI Public Media. To learn more about how CICF is changing our corner of the world for the better, visit cicf.org. Thank you for listening.