Monday, February 09, 2015

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE: Homelessness versus Economic Redevelopment along our Three Rivers - Part One Current History

Homeless In The City Of Churches Event Photo 20150208
Photo and Food Credit Food Not Bombs Fort Wayne
Over the last several months there have been many a discussion across multiple platforms and meeting halls about what to do to resolve certain capacity and service issues regarding those whom lack a secure permanent dwelling space in Fort Wayne, Indiana, right before the next round of Mayoral and City Council elections this year. As incumbent politicians and community activist jockey for coverage of their positions or their posteriors, and some community activists have also decide to enter the fret of politics as well to extend their messages and core cause issues, by doing so, tend to overwhelm the voters when  trying to communicate their campaign issues versus the history over the surrounding issues that they advocate for daily. Everything came to a head this past Sunday, at the roundtable discussion Homeless In The City of Churches held at the Wunderkammer Company on Fairfield Avenue in the old Casa's Restaurant Building.


Whom is responsible for the Homeless in our midst?

Until 1987 there was not a Federal Care Provision mandate until the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was passed by Congress and signed by then President Ronald Regan. The McKinney Act originally had fifteen programs providing a spectrum of services to homeless people, including the Continuum of Care Programs: the Supportive Housing Program, the Shelter Plus Care Program, and the Single Room Occupancy Program, as well as the Emergency Shelter Grant Program. The McKinney Act is a conditional funding act which means that the federal government gives grants to states and, in return, the grantee states are bound by the terms of the act. If a state chooses not to accept federal funds for these purposes, it does not have to implement the act. (WIKI)

So the Federal Government leaves it to the States to deal with as it was historically within the boundaries of the State's primary jurisdiction to secure their own People. Indiana has the given primary care of the Indigent and Homeless to the jurisdiction of the Township Trustee, of which six of the twenty Townships within Allen County are encompassed either all or in part by the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana: Wayne, Washington, Saint Joseph, Aboite, Perry, and Adams. While the City is not the primary Government Agency responsible for poor relief and sheltering the homeless, the ones whom are responsible for such benevolence are not doing their job efficiently either, and that goes for both Wayne and Washington Township Trustees. I havent had a recent encounter with any of the other four but they should also be challenged to improve their response to these surrounding Community issues as well, Indigent Care is under their wheelhouse.

Why are we just now starting to talk about this? 

The facts of the matter remains that, as the Fort Wayne Police Department is questionably harassing Homeless people encamped along side our Riverbanks in tents and makeshift shelters, and Citizen Advocates are crying foul, while the City Council starts choking on its own spit to avoid the Citizen backlash, only to have the Mayor pop up and act aloof and ignorant of what our Police Department is doing, and as the Citizen Advocates dig deep and start counting names and taking numbers and issuing challengers to City Council incumbents, only to get a run around by the previously aloof Mayor about a new Indiana Regional Homeless Triage Project (IRHTP) that wont even begin until (Commentary Part 1 of 3 by Ed Rose on the TOOL/PILOT Program) (Part 2 and Part 3, for further reference) after April, is that while everyone has been playing offense and defense of their respective positions and niches of service within the Community, by the City doing anything for or against the Homeless population they are both usurping jurisdiction from another Government Agency and Tax Finances that could be used more beneficently then they way they are being distributed right now, from both Government funded Agencies and Private and Religious Foundations, to scratch preferred backs and favours rather than the organizations that have the capacity but lack the capital investment to implement newer more fiscally responsible programs.

Economic Redevelopment versus Homeless Shelters/Encampments

This isnt a new debate either, we have been back pedaling how to deal with Homeless in our midst even as far back as 2009 when the new location for Charis House was built on Wells Street northwest of the Superior Street Bridge. Back then current Third District Council Member Thomas Didier was livid to think that all of that previously undesired, now Prime River Front, was now isolated from further Economic Development.

Third district City Council member, Tom Didier's, district is across the street from the controversial land. He says he isn't against helping the homeless but doesn't like the proposed Well's Street location.
"This particular project is something that probably could go somewhere else. You know it's not like it has to go here! They own the property so for them they actually could make out in the long run if some developer would want to come along and purchase that property.”
Didier called Mayor Henry today and suggested the city purchase the property and help Charis House officials find other land. 

(Source: Homeless Shelter Ready To Expand, Neighbors Say "Not So Fast" by Laura Donaldson,  
25 February Updated 04 March 2009, The Networks of Indiana News Center)

And then when challenged by Citizen Activists recently his response was even more disingenuous:
(disingenuous - adjective, not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.)
City Councilman Tom Didier said he takes the challenge from Landis seriously, but says he plans on challenging himself in a different way.
"I already know that it's freezing cold and the last thing I would want to do is I would want to be in the shoes they are in how do you develop a plan or program to have them realize that themselves that is a question that even Pastor Donovan says we're here to help," said Didier.
Didier said there is room in the Rescue Mission. The problem is getting men to agree to their rules, and really want to change.
"I think it's there, the need to help is there it's whether the person that's wanting to help and he wants to take that opportunity for the help," said Didier.
(Source: Councilmen Say 'No' to Homeless for a Week Challenge
by Isabella Moller, 27th of January, 2015, Fort Wayne Home Page / WFFT FOX 55 NEWS)

Which was then directly contradicted by the Person whom he cited from the Rescue Mission while discussing the new TOOL/PILOT program announced by the Mayor:

While Donovan Coley with the Rescue Mission sees this as a step in the right direction, he said the pilot program doesn’t currently address real solutions.

“The problem is still that we don’t have enough beds. So we can identify the persons, but where are we going to put them?” he asked.

Then to top all of this off the Riverfront Study Group released their long term planning strategy, which begins right smack dab in the middle of two Homeless Shelters and several independent encampments.

In 2013, the city hired SWA Group from Houston to complete a riverfront study. The consultants revealed their final recommendations at a meeting Wednesday night at the Grand Wayne Center, saying the first phase should involve a waterfront promenade. It could extend along both the south and north banks of the St. Marys River beginning at the Historic Wells Street Bridge and stretching east toward Harrison Street. 

(Source: Promenade recommended as first phase of riverfront development 
by Staff Reports Published: 4th of February, 2015, WANE NEWS CHANNEL 15)

In closing this historical review of recent activities, I think it would be fitting to quote Pastor Donovan Coley from earlier last year during Hunger and Homeless Week which ironically happened only a few days after the first evictions of homeless people from the Riverfront by the Police Department:

Donovan Coley, CEO of the Rescue Mission, amplified his concerns with the city’s eviction notice tactic during a press conference about the awareness week.

“I pray Fort Wayne, that we will offer true compassion by not asking individuals just to move their stuff, but that we will help them to pick up their lives,” Coley said on the Allen County courthouse green. “I pray that we will not lose our individual and community conscience in the pursuit of economic and riverfront development.”
In August, Coley first told 15 Finds Out about his concerns for the future of the homeless in a revitalizing downtown in the investigative series “Down and Out in Downtown.” Monday morning, he expanded on solutions to eradicate homelessness in Fort Wayne.

“I pray that we will come together as a community with real resources and real solutions to develop a comprehensive plan for a welcome center, for a day center, medical detox with therapeutic treatment, and other tools to address this issue in our beloved community,” Coley said.
(Source: Concerns, solutions voiced for homelessness awareness week.
by Adam Widener, 17th of November, 2014, WANE NEWS CHANNEL 15)


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