Friday, July 30, 2010

Study Circle Focuses on Poverty

Recently a group of residents of the Southeast joined together to form a study circle with the topic being poverty. The Southeast was home to nearly 25,000 residents as of the 2000 Census. Of these neighbors, one in four lives below the poverty level, creating many needs and opportunities for support (Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center).
“Poverty is like the elephant in the room in the Southeast,” says Angie Calvert, co-facilitator and host of the circle. “It’s obvious it exists here, but people don’t usually want to talk about it.” Having spent her childhood in poverty, she knew it was an isolating condition that was hard to escape. When Angie was presented with the opportunity to start a Study Circle poverty was something she had wanted to talk about openly with a group of fellow residents interested in the same topic. She used the grant from the Making Connections Study Circle program to host discussion meetings over several months. Participants were Rob Uppencamp, Greg and Becky Besser, Ryan and Trish VanHoy, Michelle Chenoweth, Rodney Benifield, Kate Voss, John Loftlin, Carmen DeRusha, and Tori Calvert (Facilitator).
During the first session, the group identified what poverty looks like in the Southeast. Members of the group came up with a variety of answers, ranging from lack of economic education to no job opportunities. The discussion identified a question that continued to present itself throughout the later circle meetings: What exactly is poverty? The group eventually came up with a definition they could all agree on. They defined poverty as the inability to meet ones basic needs.
The second session was geared around envisioning our community without poverty. The group envisioned our community as a safe, clean, visible, green place with no police brutality and more quality education. The group came up with the following top five visions of what our community would look like without poverty: a culture of civic engagement and civic mindedness, well-informed, educated, and critical thinkers, flourishing eco-friendly infrastructure, safe and secure, and core set of basic needs are met for everyone.
The third discussion topic was the views that exist about the causes of poverty. The members discussed views that were identified both from the group and from the study circle help guide. The group talked about possible causes, such as economic inequality from birth, class segregation created by physical barriers (the interstate), lack of personal responsibility, and bad policy making. "As a facilitator, I was neutral throughout the discussion and didn't add my opinions. It was eye-opening to hear what others thought about poverty in Southeast - especially when we discussed the current picture and causes of poverty,” Tori Calvert says about the study circle. “The topic that most interested me was teen pregnancy, and it would be very interesting to hear what teens think about our ideas" she adds. The group settled on the number one cause of poverty in the Southeast as the lack of support people living in poverty experience.
Focusing on the topic of lack of support, the forth sessions discussion was about what they could do to help build support in the area. The group discussed many ideas, like starting a community garden, starting a non-profit that addressed poverty in a more social aspect, and creating resource kiosks throughout the southeast. Before settling on an action item, the group visited the Ki EcoCenter, a non-profit organization addressing poverty issues by providing youth based empowerment, involvement and development. The group also met with Jim Mulholland, Southeast Community Building Coordinator, to discuss what kind of things the community could best benefit from.
The study circle group decided to implement celebratory events in areas where they can find a few residents who would like to see more engagement in their neighborhood. The group is hoping the events will spur interaction, thus build social and economic support through building relationships. The events will have entertainment as well as resource information. The group is also considering making a documentary short video that explains how the idea of the events originated. “Finally, a group of people willing to step up and address something that has been an issue and overlooked for so long”, says Rob Uppencamp, study circle participant. “I am proud to be involved with this group and excited about the impact it could have. This has been one of the most encouraging and involved groups I have been associated with. This type of involvement is what study circles were intended to promote.”
If you would like to participate in the planning process of the events or would like an event to happen on your block, contact Angie Calvert at or 317-634-5079 ext.101.

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