City to See Boost in Homelessness, Poverty Resources

MICHIGAN CITY — Michigan City will soon have additional resources to address homelessness and poverty, and may soon have new options for business investment, according to community leaders.

The Women’s Leadership Council of the La Porte County United Way is focusing its resources on addressing generational poverty and is working with Bridges Out of Poverty.

The organization teaches people about how different the worldview is of people in the middle class, or even temporary poverty, and the worldview of those in generational poverty, which is a background of two or more generations in poverty.

On Friday, the council will send a group to South Bend for training in the Getting Ahead in a Just-gettin’-by World classes provided through this organization. Afterward, La Porte County will have 10 to 12 trained facilitators to teach the classes here.

At a meeting of Economic Development Corporation Michigan City’s Integration with Community Development Taskforce at Pottawatomie County Club on Wednesday, local United Way Executive Director Kris Pate defined poverty as a lack of resources.

What starts as a lack of resources creates spirals into further financial distress. The worldview can change into one that sees potentially life-altering problems as a daily occurrence.

For example, people may expect someone whose vehicle breaks down to miss work for a day and have the vehicle repaired. However, if the person has no resources to pay for the repairs, he or she will not be able to fix it and cannot go back to work.

The rest of the people may not even see these potential consequences.

“People in poverty are great problem-solvers, a lot of them more than the rest of us,” Pate said.

The area has many great programs, she said, but some of them are set up to work from a middle-class perspective instead of the perspective of those in generational poverty.

Another important part involves enlisting business support and making the community as a whole financially stable, she said. Business cooperation with those in poverty has shown significant results.

For business, these results are a form of return on investment, Pate said, because having people with resources means a strong workforce and thus strong business.

EDCMC Executive Director Clarence Hulse said some communities, such as South Bend, have given the example of giving incentives to business so they do more than just create jobs. Businesses may be encouraged to offer jobs with good wages or give money to the community.

“It’s great that you’re creating jobs, (but) we want you to be involved,” Hulse said.

Grace Learning Center Executive Director Kristen Patterson said the Keys to Hope Resource Center will be opening soon, and its new director, Lesley Saliga, started work Monday.

This new center will provide resources to the homeless and others in difficult circumstances or poverty.

Michigan City’s City Planner Craig Phillips said an organization of which he is a member, Rebuilding Together La Porte County, will have a work day May 9. The organization focuses on improving the neighborhoods and residences of veterans, seniors and people with low incomes.

Phillips gave an update on several city plans, including the Lake Michigan Gateway Implementation Strategy. A future step will involve improving the landscape south of U.S. Highway 12 on Wabash Street.

The city has partnered with Haas and Associates to put gardens, native plants and bioswales into the Wabash corridor.

The city also plans to have Washington Park’s lakefront pavilion, including the new stage, the rooftop deck and the department summer operations building, finished by early summer. New trash receptacles and decorative benches will be installed on Franklin Street, he said, with the goal of having them ready for the two-day Taste of Michigan City starting July 31.

The city is working on expanding the tax-increment financing district on the south end to include Marquette Mall. The Redevelopment Commission also wants a TIF district on the east side from Sullair to Meer Road and on the entirety of State Road 212.

Hulse noted the importance of the school system for community and economic development. He has been working with the Realtors of La Porte County, and he has heard the first question potential homeowners with children ask is whether the community’s schools are good.

Kevin McGuire, technology director for Michigan City Area Schools, said he hopes for the city to add some funding to its plan to find $10 million to use to upgrade its technology program.

He said the way people learn has changed: since many people receive information through the Internet and other technology, schools should also use it. He plans to have a $300 device for each student.

A large component would be spent on staff development so the classroom can provide instruction relevant to this technology.

Richard Pate, Kris Pate’s husband and principal at the consulting group Pate and Associates, said Internet is important for any economic development these days. This areas has as many as 14 or more ways of accessing the Internet, and it should take advantage of this resource, he said.

MCAS used to be leaders in technology, Richard Pate said, but its is falling behind. There are now more Internet-connected devices in the world than people, he said.