The far east side of Indianapolis will receive $3.5 million in federal funding through the city's Lift Indy program to boost affordable housing, add wraparound services and spur community development — a substantial investment for an area that has long struggled with poverty and food access.
The funding for the area, which stretches east of I-465 and north of I-70, will offer programming at the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside, known as CAFE, to help lift families out of poverty. That assistance from CAFE alone is expected to serve nearly 3,800 people in the next three years.
Money will also support the creation of the Orchard Trail, a walkable route that will feature garden beds for the public to grow fresh food and lead to 38th Street.
The far east side is the second neighborhood selected to receive the $3.5 million in funding for 2022. City officials announced earlier this month that the mid-north area, which includes neighborhoods just north of downtown, will also receive $3.5 million in funding.
It's the seventh community to receive Lift Indy funds since the program's inception in 2017.
The Lift Indy grant will be a welcome investment for a community that has long felt forgotten.
City-county councilor La Keisha Jackson, who represents the area, has frequently pushed for city resources to go toward her district.
"This is truly an exciting day for all of us who live and work on the far east side of Indianapolis," she said at the Wednesday announcement, "who have invested our blood sweat and tears into this area, who've been fighting for years to improve the quality of life for our neighbors here and who have the faith that together we can build a stronger and safer community."
An area of need
The Lift Indy funding, will also support repairs to 27 owner-occupied homes and offer an affordable housing mortgage program to 10 low- or moderate-income homebuyers in the area.
Another program, run through Renew Indianapolis, will rehabilitate 10 existing homes.
The far east side has particularly pressing needs: its poverty rate has increased from 23.8% to 27% from 2010 to 2019 alone, according to an analysis from the SAVI data portal completed by the Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University.
SAVI considers the neighborhood, which includes where CAFE is located, to run east of I-465 and north of I-70, bordered by 42nd and 46th Streets to the north and N 800 W to the east.
As of the latest 2019 data, the neighborhood had a majority of people of color at 75.4% according to SAVI. The unemployment rate is 10.7% — above Marion County's overall unemployment rate of 6.3%.
The area also features one of the county's many food deserts, low-income areas where a certain portion of the population lives more than one mile from the nearest grocery store.
'We've been neglected for years': New food division battles Indianapolis food deserts
But the area has also seen investment; the city successfully demolished the Oak Tree Apartments along Post Road, a long neglected property that was considered a hotspot for crime, with a goal for positive redevelopment on the site.
IndyGo's Purple Line, too, is expected to begin construction next year, bringing public transit to the area and linking the far east side and the city of Lawrence to downtown.
The Lift Indy initiative has typically been funded through grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, awarding money to one neighborhood each year for community improvements.
During the coronavirus pandemic, however, the program was bolstered by federal funding available through the Cares Act and American Rescue Plan. Indianapolis expanded Lift Indy to two neighborhoods — choosing those that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Lift Indy 2021: These two neighborhoods received funding
"The rebuild of our community will not come from the Lift grant alone, the redevelopment of the Oaktree site alone, the implementation of the Purple Line alone," said Kendra Nowell, CEO of CAFE, "but a collaborative effort of multiple investments."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Lift Indy program to bring home repairs, public trail to far east side