At a July 2017 gathering of local church leaders, Mayor of Evansville, Lloyd Winnecke, communicated that a major use of city time and resources (over 40%) is spent settling disputes between neighbors, who usually do not even know each other’s names.
Organizations and churches are working to change that. Empty-nesters and young families are choosing to live in under-resourced neighborhoods, bringing with them their resources and networks to leverage for the good of their neighbors.
Non-profit leaders are rethinking the effectiveness of traditional forms of charity like the one-way giving experienced in most food and clothing banks, backpack drives, and community service projects that have kept people from moving toward self-sufficiency.
Instead of a focus on outputs that tend to celebrate the giver, the focus is moving toward collaborative efforts to see sustained outcomes for the success of the recipients. More and more, leaders are recognizing and involving the talents and gifts of the residents in revitalizing their neighborhoods.
Over 50% of all homes in Evansville were built before 1951, and half of those were built before 1939. This leads to higher utility costs, more difficult and expensive maintenance, and a lack of safe housing. These high costs keep the housing stock in Evansville from being repaired, restored, and rebuilt, and residents continue to live in declining structures.
HOUSE (Housing Organizations United Serving Evansville) formed in 2016 in order to collaboratively address the housing-type crisis in Evansville by strategically aligning efforts through neighborhood focus. Organizations participating in HOUSE are Community One, Habitat for Humanity, HOPE of Evansville, Memorial Community Development Corporation, and ECHO Housing.
Community development is a geographically bound, neighborhood-centric effort to listen to residents, align around a common vision and strategy, and then work together toward self-sustaining and growing neighborhoods. It is a long-term commitment that ultimate seeks to empower residents to build the neighborhood they want.
A small number of Evansville churches and nonprofits are pursuing this work in center-city neighborhoods. As a result, Evansville has received the federal designation of a "promise zone city," which increases the likelihood of receiving federal funds over a 10 year period. For more information about the Promise Zone, click here.