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  • Writer's pictureRachel Nelson

A Clear Need for NeighborLink Indianapolis

It isn’t uncommon for us to hear the question, “why do home repair for free when that person should just move?” The question isn’t a negative one, per se, but one that speaks from more economic privilege than the inquisitor may realize.

For many who do not experience poverty, it can seem like a foreign concept, especially when it is far too easy to keep tunnel vision for your own space and means. However, when we look at the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau survey, it indicates approximately 12,000 owner-occupied senior households and approximately 5,000 non-senior homeowners with disabilities, all of whom with a household income of less than our income threshold of 150% of the poverty level. More than 90% of our clients are seniors and within that economic hardship.

For seniors and individuals with disabilities in this position, most are not paying mortgage payments since they’ve owned their homes for decades. (The average number of years a homeowner had been in their home, based on our 2020 request data alone, was 26 years.) Their property tax payments are typically less than any monthly rent would be and frankly, leaving the space they’ve always known is upsetting to them. This is their home and despite its challenges, they love their home and the memories it holds. It is unlikely they would find another shelter option within their means.

Another statistic to note, within Marion County, Black homeowners experience poverty at the highest rate of any other homeowners. The home repair challenges that our organization addresses disproportionately affects Black homeowners.. In Marion County, the Black population poverty rate is 22% and they are 75% more likely to be in poverty than the non-Black population. In Marion County, the Black population is 29% yet the Black population represents 85% of the homeowners we assist. We don’t exist to debate the why’s and what-ifs. We’re here to help, and this is a population of homeowners that needs help.

Having done the math, for our organization, a single home with multiple projects costs approximately $1,000. Have the ability to fund the repairs of a client’s home? $1,000 is a great way to cover the costs. Since COVID-19, we’ve had to pause indoor projects with volunteers and now have a hefty backlog of projects. Those projects will need contractors to complete which drives up our cost to roughly $1,500. If you own a home and have had to do repairs on it over the years, you understand the minimal amount that number actually is when the average household repair typically costs well into the thousands. However, for our homeowners, whose monthly income is an average of $1595 for an individual living alone, you can see how incredibly unaffordable that is. Our ability to provide the needed skills and repairs at no cost to the homeowner is an enormous relief to that homeowner.

Consider your own senior relatives and how they are able to maintain their living space. Perhaps you’ve known them as they experience new levels of disability or have need of modifications done to ensure their safe navigation of their own home. For those with the means or the care community to help them age in place safely, it is simply a fact of life and they address it as needed. For approximately 17,000 households in Marion County — we are their means and care community.

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