Midwest going through hard times

The housing bubble has way-popped over here in Elkhart. There are a ton of houses around here for sale and no one with enough money (even with subsidies) to buy them. And last week an organization that supports housing for low-income folks had to close its doors as the result of circumstances, no operating costs and its board looking out for its own interests instead of the common good. So many foreclosures! :(

So for the folks in the Elkhart MVS unit, it’s been a tough week. But the South central community is still strong…and we believe, getting stronger.

One way we are getting stronger is that we are learning to support one another through these tough times. The NY Times said that foreclosure rates are on the rise, and if communities aren’t organized to pull together, the vacant houses will rip gaping holes in its social fabric. We are also reaching across ethnic boundaries, and learning together to look beyond capitalist assets to enrich our lives. Two examples of the budding community economy:

1. Assembling a list of resources of where to find free food, where to go to learn another language, where groups of people are already organizing around a certain issue (so as not to work at the same issue as isolated little groups, rather learn from one another)

2. White, Black and Latino community members have offered to do free capacity building workshops through a new community center focused on preserving Mexican traditions and equipping immigrants for life in northern Indiana. The topics currently range from “chess” to “aerobics” to “coping with addiction” to “leading a meeting”. These workshops (skill shares) grew out of ideas for how this community center can become respected and recognized in their community while resisting the Non-profit industrical complex (and all the paperwork that comes with it.)

The other cool thing that happened was that the associate pastor at the MVS unit’s sponsoring church is being very intentional about working through middle class assumptions about church and outreach…helping to move the congregation more towards a stance of solidarity. MVSers were able to point her to some of the stuff that Steve K is doing in Portland…we met Steve and the work out West through this blog. So, thanks, YAR.

Do you all have ideas about assets for community economies in your area? or know something about a community economy movement in the Midwest area? Though YARs live all over the world, many have connections to the Midwest. Let us know! We’re forming a list and cultivating the garden of the Kindom of God.

Comments (3)

  1. TimN

    ST, thanks for this window into life in Elkhart. I had a fairly thorough skim through the list of social, cultural and practical resources. I was very impressed with its depth and breadth. I recognized some of the items on the list from growing up in Elkhart county, but most of it was new to me.

    This seems to me to be a fairly simple, straightforward and empowering step that could be a model for lots of other towns or city neighborhoods. Do you have any plans to publish it in a format that could be shared more widely?

  2. Jason

    You’re right that the list of references I sent along is the same as the one referenced here. The design and inspiration for the list comes from Postcaptialist Politics by J.K. Gibson-Graham.

    The book lays out how capitalism has not nearly the hold on our lives we often presume. Its combination of creativity, solid analysis, and extensive fieldwork makes it the most hopeful book I’ve read in quite a while.

    The list of resources (broadly defined, since stories, experiences, and culture practices can all help build community) expands on the notion of asset-based community development that some folks may be familiar with.

    As of now there’s no plan to publish further, but if folks are interested in seeing what we’ve got so far — email me at shenkja(at)earlham.edu, and I’ll send you the link to the Google document.

  3. Pingback: Neighborhood v. Conference? » Young Anabaptist Radicals

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