Indiana Community Action Network E-newsletter
June 2018 issue



IIWF and Prosperity Indiana advocates partner with public citizen to bring predatory lending concerns to Capitol Hill on Consumer Lobby Day

FPI report shares data confirming refugee placements can benefit city cultures and economies

NCCAA presents Hazel Thomas Community Action Award during
annual board meeting


Rummage sale and donated vegetable garden add value to Community Food and Service Co-op

TALKS Leadership Program celebrates with year-end event

NCCAA gives back to women’s shelter

Brightpoint’s Supportive Housing Department program helps dad get his family back

NWICA’s Family Development Program helps client find home after two years living in car

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IIWF and Prosperity Indiana advocates partner with public citizen to bring predatory lending concerns to Capitol Hill on Consumer Lobby Day

On May 9, the second annual Consumer Lobby Day, Erin Macey from Indiana Institute for Working Families joined Kathleen Lara of Prosperity Indiana and Murray Montague, a concerned citizen from Yorktown, on Capitol Hill.

The trio met with Sen. Todd Young at his Wednesday morning “Hoosier Huddle,” sharing the details of our state-level efforts to curb payday lending and Murray’s concerns about his brother’s repeat borrowing from payday lenders, a pattern all too familiar. The senator and his staff listened and asked a number of questions, expressing an interest in continued conversation around fair marketplaces and financial literacy.

In Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office, the team extended their thanks to the senator for publicly calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to implement the payday rule. While there, the discussion turned to the value of the CFPB’s consumer complaint database, a tool that has helped more than 16,000 Hoosiers resolve problems with their financial service providers. Institute leaders are currently using data from the complaint database to inform their upcoming policy brief on debt collection policy and practice, and they urged the senator to fight to keep this data available to the public.

[Want to share your perspective about how debt collection or wage garnishment affects CAP clients? Email the Institute!]

In the afternoon, the Indiana crew headed to the other side of the Capitol and quickly visited staff members in Reps. Pete Visclosky’s, Jackie Walorski’s and Susan Brooks’ offices. Staff members revealed that members of the Indiana delegation had been asked to join the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the payday rule and had turned the offers down, a testament to the hard work of advocates back home. Staff listened as Murray shared his distress about an experience with a debt collector and heard Kathleen and Erin’s concerns about S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.

Throughout the day, staff and lawmakers expressed that it was refreshing to hear from consumer advocates. Consumers face a dizzyingly complex financial marketplace and need financial products that actually do what they are supposed to – help them manage their finances and make investments that ultimately leave them better off. Seeing lawmakers make the connection between consumer protections and self-sufficiency made Consumer Lobby Day well worth the time and effort to visit the Indiana delegation.

Shortly after Consumer Lobby Day, the deadline passed for Congress to roll back the CFPB’s payday rule, a victory for advocates and consumers. The rule still faces an uphill battle against administrative efforts to weaken or kill it and a challenge from the industry in the courts. Congress passed S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.


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FPI report shares data confirming refugee placements can benefit city cultures and economies

While U.S. federal immigration policy is a common topic of conversation in our country today, refugees seem to be a population within this conversation who get lost among the headlines. In the midst of this conversation, the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) recently released a report on refugee resettlement, trying to answer the question, “What are the experiences of businesses that hire refugees?” The hope is this report will help service providers better connect their refugee clients to opportunities and help policymakers see how important refugees are to “A State that Works.”

FPI used interviews with refugee employers in four different areas of the country that have differing economic and political situations, as well as varying ranges of immigration experiences. They supplemented that data with American Community Survey (ACS) and Worldwide Refugee Processing System (WRAPS) data and interviews with refugees, refugee resettlement staff, members of the community and other service providers.

Report Findings

For the most part, the results indicated that the similarities, not the differences, between refugees and non-refugee employees are what employers focused on.

There were two main findings of the study:

  1. Refugees tend to stay with the same employer for longer than other hires

  2. Once employers create a positive relationship with the first few refugees, it opens the door for the recruitment of others.

Employers found that there was a mutual adjustment period with refugees, but, once those workers had adapted to the expectations and the environment had adapted to the refugees, refugee employees had lower turnover in 73 percent of respondent cases. The positive reputations employers developed in refugee communities allowed them access to potential employees. Furthermore, when placement agencies saw that refugees were thriving at a company, they would send their clients there.

“Once the firm has made whatever adjustment may be necessary and has proven to provide good opportunities for refugees, a channel opens up between the refugee community and the company. That makes recruitment significantly easier,” according to the FPI report.

Refugee statistics in Indianapolis

According to Exodus Refugee Immigration, 50 percent of refugees resettled in Indianapolis are Chin, Karen, Karenni and other ethnic minorities from Burma. The city also resettles Congolese and Syrian refugees, as well as small numbers of refugees of Iraqi, Eritrean, Somali, Bhutanese, Chinese, Afghani, Cuban and other national descent.

FPI reports that Indianapolis ranks in the top 30 metro areas for refugee placement over the past decade, although 2017 saw only 646 refugees resettled — a 69 percent decrease from the 2,100 refugees resettled in 2016. This decrease, seen after the current administration paused immigration and then lowered caps on refugees entering the U.S., is disappointing for those seeking asylum and Hoosier communities who benefit from the presence of diversity.

As the conversation around immigration and allowing refugees into the country and Indiana continues, we should remember that beyond being humans in need, refugees are employees whom companies want and need. Both a city’s culture and economy can benefit from seeking refugee placements.


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NCCAA presents Hazel Thomas Community Action Award during annual board meeting

May is National Community Action Month, and North Central Community Action Agencies, Inc. (NCCAA) had plenty to celebrate. After 52 years of community action, NCCAA hosted its annual May 30 Board of Directors and Volunteer Luncheon at the NCCAA Westside Community Center in Michigan City, Ind.

During the event, the annual Hazel Thomas Community Action Award was presented to Purdue Extension Service.

Purdue Extension Service is a long-time partner of NCCAA, providing nutritional and educational programs every summer to the youth of the NCCAA Summer Education/Recreation Program that takes place at the Eastside and Westside Community Centers in Michigan City, Ind. In addition, the organization has provided weekly nutritional and health-related classes to seniors who participate in NCCAA’s congregate feeding program. Most recently, Purdue Extension Service has partnered with the City of Michigan City and NCCAA and developed two community garden projects — one at the East side’s Walker Park and the other at the NCCAA Westside Community Center.

About the Hazel Thomas Award
The Hazel Thomas Community Action Award honors either an individual or an agency that contributes time and energy to promote the mission of NCCAA, which empowers low-income people of the counties it serves through:

  • Neighborhood improvements

  • Community education

  • Communication that effects change

  • Advocacy

  • And promoting self-sufficiency


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Rummage sale and donated vegetable garden add value to Community Food and Service Co-op

The Community Food and Service Co-op in Benton County, a program of the Community Action Program, Inc. of Western Indiana (CAPWI), serves any eligible family that provides proof of receiving Medicaid, SNAP, WIC or Energy Assistance, along with proof of residing in Benton County or the Benton Community School Corporation district. The co-op provides families the capacity to provide food and resource items for themselves and their families. 

Co-op membership requires a $10 monthly fee or 2 hours of service work within the co-op or another local, nonprofit entity (such as a Community Action Program). This co-op model provides participants the opportunity to choose the products that fit their family needs and become part of the leadership team, making decisions about the co-op’s operation.

The co-op currently has 320 members, and, since opening in October 2016, members have contributed 1,950 cumulative hours of work service. The co-op currently serves 25 to 30 families a week during the two days a week it’s open.

Recent co-op project highlights:

  • May 12 Rummage sale – Co-op workers hosted their first annual rummage sale on Saturday, May 12, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Items were donated by parishioners of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, St. Charles Catholic Church and Oxford United Methodist Church. Co-op workers spent many hours prior to the sale organizing and setting up for the sale. The free-will donation sale successfully raised $2,500 to purchase food items for the co-op. 
  • May 15 garden planting – Co-op members will now have access to fresh vegetables, thanks to donated vegetable plants from Jenny Rettig of Fowler IGA. Co-op member Denny Bruner and CAPWI employee Chris Sheetz (pictured on right) spent an afternoon planting the vegetables in a garden planter that will yield a delicious future harvest.

Learn more about the Community Food and Service Co-op.


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TALKS Leadership Program celebrates with
year-end event

Community Action Program, Inc. of Western Indiana’s Transferring a Little Knowledge Systematically (TALKS) Leadership Program held its end-of-the-year celebration on May 20 at Twin Lakes Camp and Conference Center in Hillsboro, Ind.

Fountain County Circuit Judge Stephanie Campbell and Attica Consolidated School Resource Officer Kyle Askren served as guest speakers at the event. All students in the program received a scholarship to one week of summer camp at Twin Lakes Camp, thanks to grant funding from the Western Indiana Community Foundation (Attica and Covington affiliates) and the donation of student scholarships from SE Fountain School Corporation by Twin Lakes Camp. Twin Lakes also donated a family scholarship to a TALKS student and their family in attendance at the year-end event.

TALKS is a youth leadership program that matches one adult mentor with three students in the school setting. Mentors meet with students once a week throughout the school year. Mentors and students work with an issue-oriented curriculum that promotes emotional intelligence and life skills. The program is active in all Fountain County school corporations.  

Because the program is school-based, it closes during the summer months. Mentoring/leadership sessions will start again in September 2018. Learn more about TALKS or become a mentor.


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NCCAA gives back to women’s shelter

Original article published in The La Porte County Herald-Argus
Written by: Kelley Smith, Staff Writer

In a seemingly serendipitous series of events, the North Central Community Action Agency (NCCAA) and Stepping Stone Shelter for Women partnered this spring to upgrade the accommodations for the families residing at the shelter’s transitional housing facility, The Bridge.

In March, the furnace in The Bridge's administration building stopped working, as had three hot water heaters in residential units.

“Once one thing goes down, it spreads through the other apartments,” Stepping Stone Executive Director Kay Hill said of the 14-year-old, 15-unit facility. “We were wondering how we were going to get the money to get it all done. We were praying, and then the NCCAA showed up.”

View the rest of the article.


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Brightpoint’s Supportive Housing Department program helps dad get his family back

About three years ago, Alan Wright was in a bad place in life. He says he was running on the bad side of town and got himself into trouble.

“When you’re down and out, it makes you mean,” Alan said. “You hurt so bad—there’s just something inside of you that makes you just not care. And I had gotten to that point.”

He was diagnosed with explosive outbreaks and received treatment at Northeastern Center, but it took a while for him to pull himself back together.

“I had two beautiful daughters, but I didn’t realize what I had and what I was giving up. Everything else was more important than my family,” he said.

During this time, he was matched with a caseworker at Northeastern Center who introduced him to Matt Beer, an employee of the Supportive Housing Department at Brightpoint. Alan was hesitant to sign up for the program until his caseworker explained that Brightpoint could help him get a place to live and get back on his feet.

Brightpoint was able to help Alan through the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program because he received services through Northeastern Center. PSH vouchers help pay a portion of rent for people who are homeless and disabled, either because they are mentally ill, recovering from substance abuse or HIV-positive. Matt gave Alan a list of apartments in his area to choose from. Alan was able to move in, but he didn’t have any furniture—not even a bed. However, Alan was grateful for a place to live.

“It was the greatest thing of my life—just to lay on the floor with a pillow and blanket,” he said. “I had some place to call home.”

Eventually, Alan was able to get furniture from Mustard Seed—a local agency that helps people with household goods. He says he couldn’t believe everything that was given to him, but there was still something that he was missing. When Alan got into trouble, his daughters, who are now 10 and 11 years old, were taken away from him. Once he realized what he had lost, that was what he wanted more than anything. He credits Northeastern Center and Brightpoint for helping him get to where he is now.

“When I had the chance, somebody had their hand out, and I took it,” he explains. “They told me to set goals, and I set goals.” And every time Alan would reach his goals, his caseworker would tell him to set more. And finally, he got to see his kids and be their dad again.

“Today, I have a home of my own,” Alan said. “I couldn’t be happier. When I met Matt, he made my life complete because of this program…I thank you from the bottom of my heart...and if my daughters were here, they would too.”


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NWICA’s Family Development Program helps client find home after two years living in car

Rosita Bordelon has been a client of the Family Development Program at Northwest Indiana Community Action (NWICA) since August 2016. She was referred to NWICA’s Family Development program in June 2016 from Rep. Pete Visclosky’s office. During that time, Rosita faced many barriers, including the loss of her job in March 2016 and homelessness. She had been sleeping in her vehicle for two years, a condition starting to affect her health.

When first meeting with Rosita in July 2016, she was very hesitant to join the Family Development Program due to some previous negative experiences with other agencies. However, Kelly Diernfeld, her Family Development Specialist (now a Family Development Supervisor), kept in consistent contact with her, helping to develop a positive rapport. Rosita officially signed on to the program in August 2016.

Kelly got to work right away, connecting Rosita to various agencies that tailored to her needs.

A safe home

Rosita’s first goal that she set for herself was to obtain housing. Kelly referred her to a few different community agencies and housing waiting lists and assisted her with applying.

In September 2016, Kelly connected Rosita to the Gateway Housing Program, a permanent supportive housing program through Catholic Charities. Through this program, Rosita was able to secure housing and move into her new apartment in February 2017. After moving into her new home, Kelly connected Rosita to other resources for assistance with moving and providing furniture. Family Development was also able to get Rosita a brand-new bed of her own to sleep on for the first time in two years.

Reliable transportation

Transportation is a major barrier faced by many low-income individuals and families living in the Northwest Indiana region. Access to public transportation is very limited. Rosita’s vehicle was unsafe and on the verge of breaking down. The two years she had spent living in the vehicle had taken a toll on her health due to the inhalation of toxic fumes. The Family Development Program was able to assist Rosita in getting her vehicle repaired.

A brighter future

Pictured above: Client Rosita Bordelon lived in her car for two years after losing her job. Thanks to the NWICA team, she is now living safely in a new apartment and finding her passions again — gardening and interior decorating.

Rosita continues to work with Family Development on goals she has set for herself to become self-sufficient. She describes the NWICA team, her therapist and her Gateway case manager to be her angels on earth. She is very grateful for the support she has received and continues to receive.

“Kelly always informs me of programs that I will benefit from and provides encouragement and support,” Rosita said. “I feel like I matter.”

Rosita is a very passionate and creative individual with many talents and strengths. Due to her situation, she had lost track of her passions for decorating, gardening and designing. Rosita is now finding those passions again and has begun volunteering within her community!


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