The Stewards Of Heartland Present An Economic Sustainability Project
Who is Heartland Communities, Inc.
Created as a community organizer in 1997, Heartland Communities, Inc. received recognition from the IRS in 1998 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose purpose is to educate and organize communities that are culturally, environmentally, and economically sustainable. The organization and its projects were initiated until September 11, 2001, when the organization was mothballed until April 2007 when several committed individuals came together along with a few of the charter members to provide the leadership for Heartland Communities, Inc. to reemerge.
Meanwhile, the larger American and local context evolved to a condition of need and opportunity for National and local priorities call for affordable housing and home ownership; paths out of poverty that lead to self sufficiency; development of high-density, mixed-use, walkable, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable communities; ‘green’ infrastructure and conversion of storm water runoff from an environmental liability to a community asset; and addressing world records of numbers of citizens in prison and formerly incarcerated. Heartland Communities, Inc. was created to address exactly these priorities with holistic and outside-the-box solutions.
We are active in the community now. We dont just follow best management practices we look for the next best practices standards and strive for the ideals laid forth in our bylaws and highlighted in this document. For more information you may contact us @ 260-422-3853 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Proposal Is A New Economic Sustainability Project?
In this introduction to the Economic Sustainability Project, we will describe a holistic approach to community and economic development that the Stewards of Heartland are preparing to facilitate as leadership in a community-wide partnership. The potential is to create a self-sustaining program that allows low and moderate income families an opportunity to cooperate in providing the basic components of an economically sustainable life, and to gain the mutual support and capacity to become self sufficient.
Basic components of family economic sustainability include jobs, day care, food and shelter, and a context within which families can pool resources to meet those needs. If families have access to these basic components, and are organized for stability and inter-dependence, they will become self sufficient and have the foundation to build prosperity and family wealth. Social investment in such a program is only in the start-up capital, and collaboration in creating the context that will provide access to resources that build capacity.
Specifically, we propose a pilot program that takes the form of a community center that addresses all of the real needs of low income persons to be successful in their own economic sustainability. This grassroots program takes the view that low income persons are not ‘clients’ but assets in themselves and as a group possess much of the resources and talent to mutually rise to self-sufficiency.
Premises upon which this program is built
1. Access: ‘Get Real’ about what people need to succeed
An entry-level worker with children must spend half or more of their earnings on child care. And if they persevere and work anyway, they become ineligible for cash and food assistance. It is not sustainable for low-income parents to work without addressing the need for access to affordable child care. ◦ Commonly, lower income homeowners cannot afford to make necessary repairs on their home, much less make investments that will dramatically reduce their energy expenses. What will it take to gain access to a green rehab? What would they be able to afford with the savings if they gained access? ◦ We know that the safest neighborhoods are not the ones with the most police and prisons. They are the ones with the most jobs, best schools, strongest tax base and the most opportunities for young people. To create safe and healthy communities we must, every one of us, invest in them. ◦ Huge energy cost increases will necessarily lead to energy construction and production jobs. But will access to those new ‘green collar’ jobs be segregated by class, or race?
2. Cooperation: a stake in the community
People who work together and combine resources can accomplish things that none of them could do alone. Workers can cooperate in mutual aid to get access to the conditions they need to succeed. A cooperative ownership stake in housing, in the workplace, in child care, in producing the food each family consumes, makes that access possible, gives hope, reason to work and to work together, and offers a quality of life that is not currently present.
3. Democratic control: a voice and a vote in individual/community destiny
Everyone wants to have a choice in the important things in life. When workers control their own workplace they are much more productive and efficient. When communities choose together for the good of their neighborhood they take ownership of the outcomes. Consensus decision making and broad range of perspectives result in good choices.
4. Hand up, not hand out: dignity and inclusive economy
When conditions arise such that families can be effective in their quest for self sufficiency, they will in turn rise to the opportunity with dignity. Go beyond teaching to fish. Build a fish hatchery together!
5. Did they really have a first chance?: There are no throw-away people
How many inmates were that child that was left behind in some way? Once they get into the criminal justice system it is nearly impossible to get out. And when they finally do, it is nearly impossible to get a decent job with any kind of future. Young people are likely to go back into the prison system unless they have an opportunity for a real alternative. For years economic leaders have been saying that Indiana has not been producing enough workers with technical skills and this fact reduces our ability to attract industry to the area. At the same time the USA has larger numbers and a higher percentage of citizens in prison than any country in the world. In America, there are now 12 million formerly incarcerated people and the numbers grow by half a million every year.
Brief Program Description
A Community Center will offer a place to be and a hub of involvement. It will have community activity rooms for all ages; after school activities for post-childcare age children; character building activities and basic skills training for youth and young adults; and neighborhood service projects along with volunteer organizing. The following programs will operate out of the community center facility.
Job training and entrepreneurship
Worker-ownership will begin with a cooperative temporary employment and training center. The temp service/training center is the cornerstone of the transition to a co-operative capitalist economy. The center will train entry level workers in job skills and will train both skilled and unskilled workers the tenets of cooperative ownership. The trainees will start to buy-in as soon as they get paying jobs to secure a stable financial base for later investiture into an existing worker coop or as part of the capital to start a new one. It will allow workers to invest in their own business, even as they work in temporary jobs in the larger community.
Soft skills training will include: budgeting and money management; time management; productivity and efficiency in the workplace (work ethic); life skills; and computer literacy. Job skills training for entry level workers will include: food service production; day care competencies; construction/rehab general labor; weatherization; green rehab skills and materials handling; ‘green cleaning’ residential and commercial cleaning service; neighborhood landscaping and mowing crews that specialize in rain garden installation, vegetable and ornamental gardens; urban food production farming such as summer vegetable gardens, year-round rooftop greenhouse food production, and urban fish farming. Advanced skills training will include: management of day care, food service, business; green building skills for the emerging green collar industry; design-through-production of outside the box technology; IT job training; computer cleaning and repair (hard and soft ware); computer recycling and iPod repair and resale; network installation and maintenance. As workers become proficient in job skills and management, they can use their investiture funds to start-up new businesses that operate in the field independently as sole proprietors or as collectives.
Worker support services comprise the other four functions in the facility
1. Day care: The cost of quality day care per child is $130 per week. At $6.50/hour, entry level workers earn $260 for that same week before taxes and $210 after taxes. In a cooperative day care business, that parent can work in the day care 4 or more shifts per month to pay for their own child care and have that much more available cash for other expenses. A cooperative child care center can not only provide children with high quality care and early learning environment, it can also train entry level child care workers and parenting skills for new parents.
2. Cafeteria: A neighborhood cooperative cafeteria will provide a context to train entry level workers for food service temp jobs. It will also serve the day care, temp workers and neighborhood family subscribers who contribute their food budget in proportion to how much they will use the service. Like the day care coop, subscribers can work in the service to pay a portion of their meal plan. This food service may also serve neighborhood shut-in elderly and disabled (meals on wheels), and be a food bank distribution site / ‘soup kitchen’ for the hungry.
3. Housing: We know that the higher percentage of homes that are owner occupied in a neighborhood the better, safer, and higher value the homes become. There is a national and local priority to create home ownership opportunities for low income families, and to thereby help those families build assets and increase family wealth patterns. The problem that often results is that those low income families have a hard time maintaining the repairs on the home. It is also hard for single, elderly or disabled persons to take advantage of those opportunities when owning a whole house is just too much for them. Cooperative housing is a solution that is increasing all over the country and all over the world. HUD recognizes cooperative housing as a viable affordable housing home ownership alternative.
What is cooperative housing?Heartland Communities, Inc. is also interested in creating a youth hostel for older foster youth and homeless youth and young adults. We will act as the developer and organizer for this and the other cooperative housing associations. Combined with the green rehab workforce, vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties can be made ready and put back into service to meet the needs of low income persons.
A housing cooperative consists of people who have joined together on a democratic basis to own and control the buildings in which they live as an association of single-family units or as apartments or boarding rooms. They come together as a mutual housing corporation and pay a monthly amount that covers costs. Residents buy shares or a membership in the co-op, but the cooperative corporation itself owns the land and buildings. Sometimes the land itself is owned by a land trust to insure future affordability. The corporation pays property maintenance costs. Cooperative members each own a cooperative interest. Each cooperative interest is the combination of two things: The member’s ownership interest in the cooperative corporation (represented by a certificate of membership or corporate shares), plus an exclusive right to occupy a particular dwelling unit that is owned by the cooperative corporation (represented by an occupancy agreement or proprietary lease). The share equity can then be sold and the investment recovered. See Appendix B: Cooperative Housing Development Guide
This kind of housing ownership arrangement is ideal for two levels of housing arrangements: transitional housing and longer-term homes. Transitional housing cooperatives would be ideal for youth discharged from institutional and foster living; young adult students; single parents in entry level jobs; downsizing elderly; veterans; and persons with special needs. Longer-term housing cooperative apartments are similar to condominiums and are ideal for families who work their way up the skill and pay scale, and other people who are stable enough for a longer term commitment.
4. Food Production: Food Production is the last piece of the basic needs profile. Urban farming is becoming a seriously considered idea, and is being implemented in many areas. Food transport costs are driving up the general prices in the food industry. Locally grown food is preferable in many ways, and once again a cooperative arrangement can allow people to contribute labor as well as cash for a buy-in stake in the business. Food production facilities will include: neighborhood community gardens; greenhouse year-round food production; and fishery production. It will supply the cafeteria as well as creating surplus sold at market.
A priority in the City at this time is strategy to redirect storm water runoff. The Consent Decree with the EPA requires Fort Wayne to separate the storm water from the sanitary sewer. At the same time, water is increasingly expensive and becoming a valuable resource in food production. Re-directing storm water runoff will not only solve challenges for City Utilities, it will supply water for watering vegetable production and fisheries, directed through constructed wetlands to filter runoff and channeled to holding tanks and ponds.
In closing, taken holistically, these worker support and capacity building programs will make the difference between families who are struggling to survive and families who work together and thrive. In this pilot program, we will come together as a community to work out the best practices and the next practices that will empower lower income people in a mutual aid society as envisioned by our country’s forbears.
LINKS TO: HEARTLAND COMMUNITIES ON THE WEB | MYSPACE | YOU TUBE | A GREENER INDIANA |