The Allen County Vulnerable Populations Study was released this week and based on the 2016 research data. The executive summary is available here. I have pulled and digested the following information from the full 400+ page document which is also at that link. I have limited my research to Allen County as a whole and to our zip code, understanding that other zip codes are within the church’s “neighborhood” but using the 46807 as indicative of the area.
If you live in Allen County, Indiana you are probably White (75%), about 35, and have a high school degree or equivalent. About 3 in 10 have a college degree of some kind. You are more likely to live in a house you own with 2 other people. Your household income is around $50k. You speak English at home. You probably have insurance.
If you live in 46807 specifically you are likely to be White (62.3%), about 31, and have a high school degree or equivalent, or you might be of the one-third with a bachelor’s degree or higher. You are more likely to live in a house you own with 2 other people. Your household income is around $45k. You speak English at home. You probably have insurance.
However, in Allen County about 15% live below the poverty line, or 20% in 46807. About 10% say they speak English less than “very well.” About 12% have disabilities. About 12% have no insurance, a bit higher in 46807. That number jumps considerably depending on your age. About 1 in 5 people in Allen County between the ages of 18 and 44 do not have insurance, about 1 in 3 in 46807. About half of those are in the work force but are unemployed or underemployed, working but not full time. About 15% have full time work but still do not have insurance.
So what does this mean for us as a church?
It tells me who we need to target as potential members and who we need help.
We will deal first with those in need.
The people in the immediate neighborhood need the following:
- 1 in 10 at least need English as a Second Language training*
- 3 in 10 people of working age need access to affordable medical care
- 1 in 10 need GEDs
- 1 in 10 need basic assistance for living (food, clothing, shelter)
Let us be clear, it is not the place of the church to provide for all these needs. We lack the resources to do so, and even if we had them it is not the most efficient means for helping people. We must reconsider our methods of doing missions. We need to break away from the old mindset that the main point of distribution of aid is the church itself. We must be willing to look at the tools available and choose what we can do and are willing to do.
If our goal is to actually help people and not simply promote our church, we must do so in a manner that provides them maximum benefit for the cost we put forward. We need to partner with likeminded organizations. Support them and direct those who need aid to them. Our goal is to move people beyond the need for aid, into better lives. Simply giving out financial assistance without also giving direction for moving beyond their circumstances is both pointless and ultimately less than ethical for it fails to consider those we help as real persons and instead treats them as needs.
Fort Wayne does offer a variety of services, more so than is typical for a city this size. These organizations have trained staff, research, and funding. I have been working to make connections with these organizations so that I can assess them and can see how we might want to plug into them.
What we can do:
-Fund and raise support for the groups we choose
-Volunteer as individuals and as a church
-Help educate the public who might need these services
-Provide space, when possible, to these organizations for neighborhood support
-The church can have on hand emergency supplies for those who come to us in needed: food, water, baby care items, gas cards. These should only be enough to cover immediate needs of a day or two, beyond that we should direct them to the proper services.
* ESL is the one area where there does not seem to be a lot of resources available to people in our neighborhood, or at least not as many as those in other parts of the city. This maybe a ministry we consider starting.
Here is what I need from you:
-Prayerful consideration of how and why this church does mission work in our neighborhood
-Identification of areas of need
-Identification of organizations with which to become involved
-A willingness to try something different