by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

It is the best of times. It was the best of times.  It is an age of wisdom and occasionally, some foolishness.  Yes, I am paraphrasing the famous line in a Tale of Two Cities, but in fact, I am talking about Indianapolis.  As I look around the city lately, it is pretty clear that two Indianapolis’ are taking shape.

There is one Indianapolis where companies like Salesforce and Infosys are making tech job announcements every day.  In fact, it almost starts to seem trite when there’s news about a new tech start up.   Meanwhile, as the tech and innovation sector grows and thrives, we also see headlines about Marsh on the verge of shutting down its operations, leaving some people without jobs and some neighborhoods without a grocery store.

During the month of May where we celebrate the graduations and achievements of lots of young people in our communities, we see two knuckleheads stick guns in the faces of Indy 500 car drivers and rob them a  Taco Bell drive-thru.

We have a housing boom in downtown Indianapolis, but still the homeless are literally sleeping between the cracks of some of the new developments.  

I say this not to call for spending more money on anti-poverty programs, in fact, I would argue that the quickest way to get more poverty is to spend more money fighting against it.  I do think these instances demonstrate we need to rethink the social safety net.  

How do you that?  I’m glad you asked.

We need to make sure that ongoing learning opportunities are there for older workers who get displaced so they can take part in the new economy.  It is possible to retool and rebrand.  It happens every day over at the Department of Workforce Development.  Most of these workers just need a little guidance on how to get started.

I’ve written this before, but churches, Indy’s universities and the business community need to partner together and create summer learning/engagement centers, so young people have a positive, safe environment to spend their summer days, especially if they are too young to get a job.  The churches provide the space.  The business community provides the funding.  The colleges and universities provide the mentors.   

Concerning the city’s homeless problem, we all know that most homeless suffer from some form of mental illness.  And while the city is on the right track with its engagement centers, we need to seriously have a conversation about making sure people who are a danger to themselves and others are put in a safe, clean, long-term facility where they can get the treatment they need.

Indianapolis is a great place and truly is that shining city on the hill. However, when it comes to what’s in the shadows of that city, we have some work to do.  And I have no doubt; the job can get done.

Abdul-Hakim is the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org.  His views are his own, but they should be everyone else’s.