I love sitting on my front porch. Maple Street is a pretty street with lots of trees. You can ride down the street and turn right two blocks down at one of the neighborhood bars. One block down is an apartment community, primarily very affordable housing. Throughout the entire street there is a mish-mash of housing, some multifamily, some single, and very mixed incomes. It is our neighborhood and I love it. It isn’t special, but it is our neighborhood. I understand the concerns people have when they want to protect their neighborhoods. I also understand that we have to have more affordable housing and it does need to be interspersed throughout the entire community.
Recently, a local council person told me he was tired of having things pushed to the north in the area he represents. That caused me to wonder just where are things located in Jeffersonville? North of Court Avenue, you have some business on Spring Street, but M. Fine is the primary multifamily development on Spring with a smattering of houses, Claysburg Towers and St. Katherine Apartments. South of Court is primarily residential with most of the business on Spring and Court, some residential on both, but largely retail until Meigs Avenue.
The jail, the local community mental health center, two to three apartments for people with disabilities, at least three apartment communities that are considered affordable, Clark Arms, Bliss House, the Center for Lay Ministries, and again a mixture of housing. Farther up the street is another district that houses Turning Point, some low-rent hotels, lots of business on 10th Street, and mixed housing. There really is not a concentration of services in any one area, but many services scattered in throughout our city.
Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY) is an ugly thing. We all acknowledge the need for services, just not here is what we say. If not here, then where?
Recently, with the closing of the hotel in Clarksville, I got to see my community at its best. Service agencies from the region stepped up in the Homeless Prevention Task Force. So many came: HOPE of Southern Indiana, Community Action of Southern Indiana, Park Memorial Church, LifeSpring, WellStone Regional Medical Center, Haven House, Exit Zero, Jeff Township Trustee, Clarksville Community Schools, the Return Church, Indiana Housing and Community Development Association and Ann Carruthers were the primary ones involved. The people of this community stepped up and sent money and donations as well as housing itself. They all worked tirelessly to help the people of America’s Best. We could not have done it without the generosity of the town council of Clarksville, City Council of Jeffersonville, and the City of New Albany as well as to all those who sent contributions — and you were many. The point is we pulled together to get something positive done to help those in need, and we did it.
All of that energy produced a result that was viable and visible. If we assess where we are, we know we do not have enough housing in this community. We can never expect to end homelessness without affordable housing. If not here then where? The question is valid. Will we ship in labor that cannot afford to live in our community? Who will run the restaurants, the gas stations, businesses that cannot afford to pay more than $8.50 per hour (and there quite a few)? Public transportation is limited here, so people need to be close to their jobs. When we fail to plan for the entire community, we do fail. Those who work and serve in this community should be able to live and thrive here, and those who live on incomes other than employment should have a place as well.
No one wants a homeless shelter, I get that. I operate the only one in town. Until we plan and build the right kind of housing that is truly affordable for everyone, including the disabled and addicted, it is needed. I have always said closing the doors to the shelter will be the happiest day of my life. What began in my lifetime should end there, but not because we ran out of money, but because we run out of residents as they move to homes, as they secure housing, and as we, as a community, begin to behave with compassion and caring.
I have been blessed to know the caring compassion of this community and I do believe we will, in the end, do what is right. Mariposa Springs is needed. It is a $10.5 million housing venture that will bring a grocery store to a food-depleted area. The latest proposed site is not in the Claysburg area, but it does border it. I have seen and read much about it in the last few days as we have struggled to help 158 people move out of America’s Best, on the one side total and complete compassion and on the other fear and anger for the third time. The same community produced both. We are better than that. We have to face the fact that it takes lots of different people to make up a community, indeed a country. Everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable place to live. Please open your hearts, your minds and your compassion; help us house the least among us.
— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email email@example.com.