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  • Writer's pictureRachel Nelson

Supporting the Matriarchs of Indianapolis

On the surface what NeighborLink Indianapolis does for homeowners is pretty simple. We provide home repairs for individuals who financially or physically can not complete them. This can look like a replaced set of outdoor steps with a handrail or cleaned up and repaired gutters around their home. It’s a nice visual and has a clear use for the homeowner. But what of the bigger picture, the bigger impact. Let me share a story of a homeowner we recently helped.

Deloris has lived in her home for more than 20 years. She actually was a kid in the neighborhood she currently lives in. Her mother moved her out of the rougher neighborhood when Deloris was entering her teenage years to a more suburban area for Deloris to go to school in and “get a better life.” She went through school, worked hard and finally landed working at a school back in her old neighborhood. Now, after 30 years there, she is gearing up for retirement.

“God brought me back full circle to this neighborhood. I needed to do something for my community. It means everything to me to own a home here. At first I was in an apartment but the minute this house became available I went for it. This is actually a Habitat House, I got lucky because they were looking for someone who didn’t have a whole lot of kids because it’s so small. The original owner needed someplace bigger. I didn’t have any small kids so it was a perfect fit for me.”

Deloris is a common denominator for so many of the people who live and have lived in this area. She is the safe space for kids with rough homes, she is the consistent presence for those with transient foundations. She provides comfort, guidance and a very experienced eye to say “nah uh, you don’t want to go down that path.” Her neighbors return the favor of her care by making sure she is well looked after. The trash can always makes its way back up to her house, if someone’s running to the store she gets asked if she needs anything. They even gave her a plaque to put up in her home.

“It’s important for me to stay because I was one of these kids running around doing a lot of bad. God pulled me full circle back here because He knew I knew what these kids were going through. I understood what these kids felt. My house was the house that they would come to and talk to me about what’s going on. I’d work with their parents and when we could squash their problems we would. The school I work at is just around the corner. I can walk to work, the kids can come over after school and it just works out. Now I’m talking to those kids’ kids.”

It was at about that time the fear of having to leave her home began to mount. She had just lost her son to COVID, he had just lost his dad before he passed. Almost immediately after, Deloris’ furnace went out and a few other things were breaking. She was looking at her finances and the numbers weren’t adding up. It was at this moment she learned about NeighborLink Indianapolis from a deacon at her church. Shortly after calling, NeighborLink Indianapolis was able to come out and begin working on what needed taking care of. The home not only needs to be a sturdy space for Deloris, but with the passing of her son, her young granddaughter is now with her more often than not.

“It’s like a slice of heaven. I can’t believe people would do this for me. Since NeighborLink has come into my life, I feel more secure. I can stay here forever. I planned on retiring this year and I wanted my house to be where I could come and sit on this porch and enjoy. Thanks to NeighborLink I can do that.”

Situations like these are more common in our city than many realize. The calloused response says “well, if they can’t afford it, they should move.” Look deeper at our current housing stock situation, rising rent prices, and the difficulties of Black homeowners home values depreciating simply because of the neighborhood they’re in and that calloused response is shown for its extreme lack of understanding. Where would someone in Deloris' situation find housing if not for her own home? How would her grandchildren move into homeownership without the passing of generational wealth in the form of real estate? And bigger still, who would fill the massive hole in the community if she were forced to leave?

The home repairs that NeighborLink Indianapolis provides are fighting poverty in our city one little turn of the screwdriver at a time. With a new HVAC, a more secure exterior by way of repaired gutters, roofs, safe entry and exits—we are providing stability for a neighborhood that relies on a matriarch and stability for a family that relies on her care and lifelong efforts to build up her family and place them on stable ground.

Want to dig in and contribute to the big picture? We can't do it with out you. Volunteer, donate, or share this story.

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