INDIANAPOLIS — An organization in Brookside Park on Indianapolis’ near east side is using city funds to help address the root causes of violence.
Just south of Brookside Park, men and women filed into Brookside Community Church, either off the street, by car, or by bus, to hear Pastor Charles Neal preach about change.
These men and women are building a bridge from the chaos of their lives to something better.
“They’re bridging from prison to a new life. They’re bridging from chronic addiction to sobriety. They’re bridging from homelessness to some sense of stability,” Pastor Neal said.
Pastor Neal is the director of reentry at Brookside CDC. He is working with some of those most likely to either commit crimes or become victims of crime to have conversations to try and figure out why they are in the type of situations that they are in.
Pastor Neal gave an example of a man that wrote to them from out of state wanting to participate in their program after serving 12 years in the penitentiary. They were able to give him housing and a job with RecycleForce.
Within a matter of months, they found out he had experience in creating curriculums, and he has gone from tearing apart electronics on the floor to teaching high school equivalency and CLA classes.
“The ugliest situation. The ashes are burned and so forth. And you think that it’s all over. There’s no hope in this situation, but the phoenix will rise once again, and that’s what we’re attempting to do in our situations.”
Pastor Neal said a large part of what they do is going out to the streets and starting conversations to create intentional relationships.
“So many people don’t feel like they belong to anything, and so there’s a sense of hopelessness,” Pastor Neal explained. “And so we are a very intentional relational community that allows people, number one, to belong.”
After building that community, they offer services that allow people to have that human dignity, value and worth. Pastor Neal said it is all about meeting people where they are.
Among the services that Brookside CDC offers are the reentry program, a food co-op, play-based service for children, job placement and affordable housing.
Pastor Neal said among the jobs they help people with is a construction company they own that has around 37 homes in the community, including an apartment complex. They use this to help people struggling with felonies, eviction and other issues, have a job so they can have a way other than crime to help pay the bills.
“You don’t have to feel like you’re left alone. You don’t have to feel like you’re hopeless,” Pastor Neal said. “We are here to walk life out with you in whatever way possible that we can.”
To help its initiatives, the City of Indianapolis, through the Office of Public Health and Safety, awarded Brookside CDC with $100,000. They are using this money to support their intervention and prevention programming. This includes:
- A new full-time position dedicated to intervention and addiction recovery support
- First and second month’s rent for men and women in their transitional housing to assist in stabilization
- Program contracts with job-training partners and employers
- Bus passes for transportation assistance
- Funding to assist in breaking barriers, including cell phones, work boots and work clothing
“It means so much for our city to believe that there can be a new beginning, a new horizon for individuals that are coming out of a lot of stuff in their lives, and they’ll be able to see them move toward their destiny in life,” Pastor Neal said.
Brookside CDC offers weekly community meetings, programs and coaching. They are also working on including two reentry homes, one providing room for 13 men and another providing room for 78 women.
They hope to beef up their employment opportunities, as well as other opportunities, to help individuals have immediate employment.
For more information about Brookside CDC, or to figure out how you can help in their mission, visit their website.