Where, What & Why
Located 6 minutes from Indianapolis, IN's vibrant downtown, the Northwest Area community is littered with nearly a 1,000 abandoned properties. And this number is growing by the day as properties continue to go into foreclosure, slide into tax sales or are simply ignored by private owners who neglect the property.
At the root of our desire to address this issue was the work we completed when developing a Safe Routes to School plan for the community. Safe Routes to School is an international effort that simply focuses on how to make the routes students use to
and from school safe.
Developing the Northwest Area Safe Routes to School Plan opened our eyes to many disturbing and unseen facts. While there were more than 70 vacant spaces in a 3-block radius of the school, it was learning about kids being sexually harassed walking to and from school that really got underneath our skin.
So, our solution is to transform these blighted properties into community murals designed by and for the community, these murals then become opportunities for community economic development.
Simply put, how do we transform blight into beauty and community opportunities?
High vacancy rates contribute to a community increase in crime by creating corridors where crime can occur because there are no "eyes" on the community to see what happens. There are 6 'high crime hot zones' in Indianapolis where the department of public safety has identified these areas as requiring more city services including policing. One sits within the Northwest Area's border and two others are within 1-2 miles of this epicenter.
The Northwest Area community has recently be identified as one of the top 20 most violent zip codes in America.
The Northwest Area Community has a 40% vacancy rate.
Students at Elder W. Diggs, School #42 identified more than 75 vacant properties in a 3 square block area around the school during a Safe Routes to School Mapping Excercise.
Rader Street is a main artery that student walkers must traverse each day to get to Elder W. Diggs School #42. Nearly 90% of the properties on the route between 30th Street and 25th Street are abandoned.
HOW WE DO THIS
Step 1: Partnerships
Our process begins by first partnering with Renew Indianapolis, which owns more than 400 vacant homes in the community. We identify homes that are on the list to be demolished. Working with area schools and re-entry programs, as well as the neighborhood at large and local community stakeholders ensures the project is grounded in and lead by the community as it continues to transform.
Step 2: Improving Literacy and Arts
After identifying potential sites properties, vacant properties are then transformed and painted with murals developed from a community poetry project. Students from Northwest Area Community Public Schools will respond to the work of various poets and spoken word artists and in turn develop own poetry and artwork.
Step 3: Transformation Begins
Artists will work create murals inspired by the students’ words and images. Student work will be incorporated into a project catalog to celebrate the voices of the community and used as a potential fundraiser for area youth, art and community activities.
Step 4: Beauty to Economic Opportunity
And this beauty then becomes a source of opportunity, as we working with community partners to employ individuals from the New Life Development Ministry, a re-entry program that teaches individuals construction and trade skillos, to prepare the homes for painting. In addition, community members will be hired to paint the murals.
Step 5: Celebrating Community
Once finished these reclaimed spaces then become community places offering opportunities for celebrations, music performances, poetry slams and other community building activities.
Step 6: Life Skills
Before the homes are demolished, the painted siding will be salvaged. Community members will then be trained in a community workshop to turn the painted siding into upcycled furniture in collaboration with local furniture designers. We'll also work with area business schools to connect community members with opportunities to develop a business plan.
Step 7: Sustainability
Proceeds from the sale of the upcycled furniture goes into the hands of the individuals as, well as back into the program to support the next House Poem Project.
INTEGRATED COMMUNITY IMPACT
The House Poem Project impacts the community in an integrated method by supporting several community concerns at once.