The Munster Times. Jan. 22, 2016
We all own problems of poverty.
Earlier this month, our Region received a sobering reminder of the poverty and need that exists all around us.
It's a problem that doesn't observe the imaginary boundaries of our municipal and county lines.
More than 100 Valparaiso Community Schools students have been counted as homeless, meaning they lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, according to the school district.
Valpo schools performed the count in concert with the Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing to get a more accurate count than those provided by the state's annual homeless census.
It's a sobering reminder that homelessness and other need is a problem in communities regularly associated with affluence, not just our urban core. The numbers also serve notice that hardworking parents struggle every day in our Region to provide for their families, often with few public resources at their disposal.
The school district acknowledges that some of the students listed as homeless could actually be staying at another residence within the school district to attend school there. But that can't explain all of the numbers.
The Valparaiso figures reflect what federal poverty statistics already told us about our Region.
In 2014, The Times published an investigative special section, detailing "The Price of Poverty" in Northwest Indiana.
Though heaviest in Lake County's northern urban core, poverty also exists in high percentages in some parts of Porter and LaPorte counties, census data culled in the investigation revealed.
In all, 13 cities and towns spanning the three counties had higher percentages of poverty than the nation as a whole.
Valparaiso was among those 13 municipalities, with 16.2 percent of its residents living in poverty, compared to 15 percent nationwide.
Those numbers don't take into account the many families teetering on the edge of financial disaster — the working poor not eligible for many social services but barely able to make ends meet.
The bad news is this problem belongs to all of us. The good news is common problems present opportunities for collaboration to seek common solutions.
These numbers should provide a starting point for that conversation — a place where urban, suburban and rural leaders can find common ground.
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Jan. 22, 2016
It's been a mild winter so far - except for the homeless. The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and several other sites offer shelter for the homeless when the temperature dips into the 30s.
The city opens a warming shelter, too - but only if the temperature is 10 degrees or below.
Last week, the Fort Wayne City Council unanimously sent the city a message: Ten degrees is too low. The council's nonbinding resolution asks the city to consider opening its warming shelter whenever the temperature drops to 32 degrees.
John Crawford, R-at large, made the proposal after some research. Crawford, a doctor, told his fellow councilmembers that the National Coalition for the Homeless recommends keeping warming centers open 24 hours a day when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.
Crawford said a reasonable cutoff would be 32 degrees, which is the figure warming centers in many larger cities use. Below that temperature, Crawford said, the homeless face a real danger of hypothermia.
As Crawford and others who spoke about the issue emphasized, it's not that the other warming centers aren't doing a good job. But the city warming station fills some gaps for people "falling through the cracks."
"If there are some people who are ineligible for other centers or don't want to go to other centers who would need our city warming center at 10 degrees," Crawford said, they would also need it "at 11 degrees, at 12 degrees, at 13 degrees, at 14 degrees - all the way up to 32 degrees."
But Crawford's words and the council's resolution haven't persuaded the city.
"We're always evaluating what's working and what needs to improve," mayoral spokesperson John Perlich said Thursday. But the plan that has the city's Community Center on East Main Street as a backup warming center came from a strategy the city worked out with the community's social agencies last year.
"The plan is doing well," Perlich said, noting the warming center already has been opened twice for multiday periods. "People who are in need of shelter are getting the shelter that they need."
"Give us the winter season, to see how the plan plays out," Perlich said.
But why not now? If it's a matter of resources, Crawford said Thursday, the council probably would be amenable to helping the city find the funds.
"I just think that if you're going to do it, you should do it right," Crawford said. "If you need (a warming center), you need one at 32 degrees."
Listen to the doctor.
The South Bend Tribune. Jan. 21, 2016
Time to end the status quo on Sunday sales.
Supporters of lifting Indiana's eight decades-old ban on Sunday carryout alcohol sales can be forgiven for thinking "Here we go again" at the latest effort to do just that.
An Indiana House committee heard testimony Wednesday on a new proposal to end the Hoosier state's dubious distinction as having the last such statewide "blue law" in the country. The measure, sponsored by House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody, would require grocery and convenience stores to keep alcohol in separated areas of their stores and away from toys, school supplies and candy. Clerks would also have to 21 years old in order to sell the products. The committee could vote on the proposal next week.
The rules in the current bill are fewer than those in a bill Dermody sponsored last year. That bill collapsed under the weight of restrictions — requiring hard liquor be sold behind a counter, and beer and wine be located in a single aisle or separate room — opposed by grocery stores, which traditionally support Sunday sales. Ultimately, Dermody, saying the measure lacked the votes to pass, didn't call for a vote.
For years, strong opposition by the state's powerful liquor store lobby has helped keep the Prohibition-era ban in place — despite the inconvenience to consumers and, more significantly, the state's questionable role in shielding one type of retail business from competition with another.
We have long argued that there should be a good reason for not permitting liquor sales by retail stores on Sunday, the second busiest shopping day of the week. Not just any old reason will do, because the state has no business restraining merchant commerce without a good reason.
While we realize that Sunday competition would generate some discomfort for liquor stores, that is not reason enough to maintain the status quo in Indiana. Lawmakers should end the Sunday sales ban.
The Elkhart Truth. Jan. 22, 2016
Elkhart schools/Boys & Girls Club partnership is smart move.
Combining resources to build a school that also works as a Boys & Girls Club just makes sense.
It's easy to call for public/private partnership. It's a lot harder to pull it off.
The newly announced partnership between Elkhart Community Schools and Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County is exactly the kind of partnership for which one would hope and those involved in hammering out the details are doing the right thing.
The school system and the nonprofit will jointly fund a multimillion dollar Boys & Girls Club facility at the site of Beardsley Elementary School and share space there. It'll be a full-service facility — the first one in Elkhart — that will be open to elementary, middle and high school students who want to go to the club after school.
Elkhart Boys & Girls Club has after-school programs at North Side, Osolo and Beardsley schools, but Elkhart is the largest city in Indiana without a full-service club, said Kevin Deary, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County.
Elkhart Community Schools has the task of educating the young people of Elkhart and Bristol. Residents pay tax dollars and trust the school system to use the money wisely in that effort.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County has a long history of helping young people when the schools are done with that work for the day. For decades in Goshen and shorter periods of time in Elkhart, Nappanee and Middlebury, the nonprofit agency has raised money to offer affordable after-school activities, mentoring and tutoring for thousands of young people.
The approach and methods aren't identical, but the goal of the school system and the Boys & Girls Clubs is the same: to help young people mature, learn and stay safe while they're doing so.
The school system is held accountable for how it educates our young people and attendance is mandatory. Participation at the Boys & Girls clubs is voluntary and the accountability has to be demonstrated to the donors who support the efforts that help those young people and their families.
There are questions to resolve, such as what happens to the programs at Osolo and North Side. Answering those wisely will be important for those who rely on those programs.
The Boys & Girls Club is relatively new to Elkhart. Tolson Center is funded by the city. Lifeline is raising money for a new building on the south side. Deary says there's more than enough work for all of them and they all work together.
This model of a nonprofit and a school system joining forces on a project has been done in Toledo, but is new here. If this model is successful, it could become a model for more sites after Beardsley.
Deary, Elkhart School Superintendent Rob Haworth and others have been deliberate in considering and planning. Boards for both organizations have approved the partnership, and Community Foundation of Elkhart County has already pledged money.
It takes money to educate or conduct activities for children after school. The Boys & Girls Club could build a gleaming new standalone facility in Elkhart, but that would take even more money. It's already raising millions to build at Beardsley.
Figuring out how to successfully combine taxpayer money with private funds to pay for a single project is difficult, but it's exactly the kind of work that should be done to make the best use of both. It's investing in Elkhart in this way that should yield stronger kids, healthier families and a better community.