By Denise Porter-Leathers
Special to Frost Illustrated
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was originally written for a Renaissance Point newsletter in January. It is being reprinted here due to its relevance to recent events.
Yet, two days after the latest incident, most media and ministers had moved on, looking for the next “Big Story,” and those of us who live, work, learn, play and worship in the neighborhood are left to ask why. When a rash of apartment break-ins occurred in the suburbs, not only did it garner headlines for weeks, but it brought with it action from law enforcement, property owners and individual neighbors to check out what they each could do to better enhance their safety and security.
As urban community dwellers, we too must learn how to keep ourselves and our neighbors out of harm’s way. Locally and nationally, we have learned that no neighborhood is “safe” or “dangerous” simply because of location, because “bad” people can be anywhere. What we can do is to get to know one another better, sit on front porches and watch our children as they walk to bus stops or the library. We should attend our own neighborhood associations and learn about the same crime prevention techniques that have been shared in other parts of our community. We need to be able to have friendly conversations with one another on a regular basis so that when difficulties occur we can dialog with one another with dignity and understanding rather than hate and violence.
None of us have had a perfect life, neither is anyone so lost to evil that they cannot be saved. Often, despair creeps in when a person can’t find a job, has a limited education, and is facing eviction or is already homeless. When people become hopeless, it is an easy slide into negative behavior because they might feel there is no way out. Despair escalates to domestic violence, theft, drugs and street warfare. No amount of money, fences or law enforcement can help us when we as a people stop caring for one another and helping ourselves.
The Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King once said:
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Our faith based and non-profit community organizations are here to offer hope and resources for a better neighborhood. Just look at the recent results. Ten years ago, many people were ready to write off our neighborhood [Renaissance Point]. Yet with the insight, hard work and cooperation of people within the neighborhood and other parts of our community, we have revived the area. Zion Lutheran and St. Peters worked together to aggregate vacant land, at first for a soccer field, and then evolved into a campus for social service agencies. The Fort Wayne Urban League worked with Allen County Public Library and CANI Head Start to agree to co-locate their new state-of–the-art buildings. Each of these entities could have stayed within their own separate comfort zones, but each had hoped that thing could be better. By working together things began to change.
In addition to these organizations that started our renaissance, we have a dozen strong and active church congregations and hundreds of new residents in the new housing projects from Genesis Outreach, Phoenix Manor and Renaissance Pointe Community Homes. The Renaissance YMCA has joined our neighborhood and there is new life in the GPBC Family Life Center and Links is still hosting our community social events. And, we are not finished yet. Following on those successes, two other developers have made a commitment to build new/renovated housing opportunities in our area. Community Builders Inc is creating Pontiac Square; multifamily rental housing that will revamp the old Coca-Cola building into loft apartments.
Millennia Housing Management Ltd (the new property management company of Eden Green Apartments) announced plans to gut parts of their existing apartments and build two new properties to be called the Villages of Hanna and the Villages of Creighton. Both projects will begin with community meetings keeping the neighborhood informed before the planned grounding breaking ceremonies in 2013.
With all of this new construction will come job opportunities as well as more affordable housing units. The Urban League will have information on how you can follow up on these and other activities in our neighborhood. This will give us all for HOPE for our shared futures.
Denise Porter-Leathers is a long-time community activist and former city neighborhood liaison officer, now community case manager for the Fort Wayne Urban League.