Unacceptable Fact of the Month
Fewer than one in 10 IPS 10th grade student passed both math and English ISTEP tests in 2017.
Thanks to everyone who attended last week’s conference. We hope that the opportunity to listen in on conversations among such tremendous speakers inspired you and left you feeling equipped for the work ahead.
Of course, the conversations, as wonderful as they were, mean nothing if we don’t take the next steps: Putting action behind the ideas. To that end, we hope that you gained practical insight and made connections that will help you in your daily efforts to turn back poverty.
We also hope that you plan to take the concrete step of applying for a 2018 Faith & Action grant. We look forward to receiving letters of intent and program summaries by May 9. As a reminder, our plan is to award a total of $100,000 in grants, divided among three organizations. Grants will go to the initiatives with the greatest potential for creating lasting solutions for reducing poverty in Marion County. Collaborations involving faith communities and nonprofits are preferred, as are projects that have a track record of or an evidence-based model for moving people out of poverty. Details can be found here.
Lindsey Nell Rabinowitch
Project Director, Faith & Action Project
1. Fight mass incarceration. Building on the research that led to her book, “From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime,” Harvard University Professor and author Elizabeth Hinton highlighted the ways mass incarceration has disproportionately affected the African-American community and made poverty a mainstay in too many neighborhoods. To create change, she said, we all must acknowledge and attack the problem. “It’s going to take all of us working together and finding common ground,” she said.
2. Change the nature of prisons. One path to change, Hinton noted, will come from rethinking the purpose of prison. Her suggestion? As the headline on her recent New York Times op-ed put it, “Turn Prisons Into Colleges.” She cited a RAND Corp. study showing that inmates who took classes in prison “had a 43 percent lower likelihood of recidivism and a 13 percent higher likelihood of getting a job after leading prison.”
3. Engage parents in education. Real change starts with education, and educational success requires parental engagement. But we can’t expect parents to do it alone. “Parents need information about navigating all of the changes in education today,” said Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo of The Mind Trust. However, that doesn’t mean we should simply push out information. We also should draw from parents. “All parents have something they can give to the school,” she said.
4. Attack barriers to learning. We must help children living in poverty overcome barriers to learning if they are to reap the benefits of education. “Poverty doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse door,” Shaheed-Diallo noted. “There’s only so much you can do if a child is coming to you hungry.” Center for Leadership Development President Dennis Bland highlighted one barrier he sees too often: the lack of understanding about what education can do for a person. If no one has effectively explained the value of an education to a child, then the child won’t see the value of pursuing an education.
5. Make human connections. People need to be told, “You matter. Your life matters,” said Christian Theological Seminary Dean Leah Gunning Francis. Andrew Green of Shepherd Community Center described one way his organization does this: Shepherd sends staff members into Pendleton Correctional Facility to offer soft-skills training to inmates. Not only does this provide offenders with improved skills, but it also gives them established relationships in the community. Tysha Hardy Sellers said relationships also will aid in the efforts to turn back poverty … and the community is ready to build those relationships “Many people want to work together,” she said. “They recognize that we need to work together.”
6. Recognize various forms of poverty. Seeing poverty simply as an economic challenge is shortsighted. As Center for Leadership Development President Dennis Bland said, “Economic poverty is an outcome or result.” To see the full picture, we must recognize other forms of poverty, he said, such as poverty of literacy, skills, character, successful habits, values, opportunity, culture and more.
7. Meet people where they are. We can’t expect people to find paths out of poverty if those paths are beyond their reach. “You start where people are ready to start,” said Shepherd Community Center’s Andrew Green. Tedd Grain of Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) urged attendees to embrace the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Resource Center’s statement, “We believe that everyone is naturally creative, resourceful and whole.” Building from such a positive vision will be more successful than a deficit-focused approach.
8. Be willing to change. A number of speakers suggested that we can’t expect to make change without changing our systems. EmployIndy’s Angela Carr Klitsch said that, at her organization, that has meant changing the way her team sees its work. Case workers are now referred to as navigators, her team tries to complement the requirements of government programs with more humane approaches, and the goal has become not simply getting people jobs, but helping them understand themselves and make decisions that align with their own priorities.
9. Be entrepreneurial. Purposeful Design has leveraged enterprise to attack poverty for men coming out of addiction and homelessness, with a two-fold impact. As Executive Director David Palmer noted, training men and putting them to work has forged relationships that more traditional programs cannot. In addition, it’s helped to fund the organization’s work.
10. Let faith and humanity guide you. Along with offering tangible and practical action points, speakers repeatedly pointed to the power of faith and humanity in addressing poverty. Dr. Emily Zarse of Eskenazi Health noted, “Faith gives us a resource to stand against the cultural stigma. We cannot put down people who have addictions or mental health issues because we know that every person is a gift and is gifted. Every person bears God’s image.” And Eastern Star Church Pastor Anthony Murdock added, “None of this work can be done without practicing empathy.”
At the Faith & Action Conference, John H. Boner Neighborhood Center volunteer Valerie Davis touched attendees by sharing her story of overcoming homelessness. After describing the middle-class life that depression stole from her, she said, “Never in a million years would have thought I would be homeless. Never thought I would be hungry.” How did she overcome poverty? With the help of the Boner Center, hard work and the support of others. Most notably, she pointed to a simple act of compassion as a turning point: the time when Boner Center Executive Director James Taylor sat down to hear her story. Summing up the impact of that moment, Davis said, simply, “He listened to me.”
Mark your calendar for these important dates.
May 9 — Grant program letters of intent due by noon
May 23 — Applicants invited to submit a full grant request will be notified
June 13 — Full grant proposals due by noon August Grant recipients announced
Oct. 23 — Faith & Action fall event at Clowes Memorial Hall