By Stephanie Dolan
Since 2016, Bridges Alliance of Johnson County has served the Southside by helping individuals in poverty gain self-sufficiency. This has been done by reducing social costs related to crime, poor health and welfare; by strengthening educational opportunities and job skills and by building sustainable communities where everyone can live safely.
“Bridges Alliance of Johnson County’s goal is to educate about poverty and to help people move out of poverty using the model of circles, a relationship-based approach to help people get out of poverty by providing them with positive relationships with allies as they journey toward self-sufficiency,” said coordinator Marie Wiese. It’s not a mentorship as much as an intentional friendship across socio-economic and racial lines.”
Wiese works with circles organizations in both Indianapolis and in Johnson County.
Bridges Alliance of Johnson County meets every Wednesday night at Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin.
“They always start with a meal, and during the meeting there are various activities that support our circle leaders, who are surrounded by allies who lend social capital,” Wiese said. “Even in the tech age, it’s still about someone who can get you an interview or get you in to talk with somebody. Something that in the isolation of poverty you may not be able to achieve on your own. Allies provide support, encouragement, a listening ear and advice if asked. No money is exchanged. Each circle leader is surrounded by two allies, and that makes a circle. The community as a whole is working to support these circle leaders. The commitment is 18 months in that they will be in a formal relationship with their allies. That often creates relationships that lasts forever. That’s our goal: to form relationships across socioeconomic barriers.”
Wiese said that the No. 1 barrier to getting out of poverty is finding safe and affordable housing.
“All those jobs that are opening up down in Greenwood are paying $13 to $14 an hour, but there is a lack of affordable housing. Businesses are begging people to work, but if you don’t live here there is no bus system. This issue is top of the heap. Everything that a person has to try to navigate – enough money to pay rent, daycare, transportation … we teach skills to help them maneuver and learn budgeting and what is required to be self-sufficient.”
Wiese said that, according to their national collection database, as of 2015 there was a 117 percent increase in income for Indy circle leaders.
“A lot of people are starting with $0 income,” she said. “We’re not giving them cash or clothing. We’re giving them relationships, community, social capital and hope. Somebody’s in their corner and understands the stress that they’re under in worrying about keeping food on the table and a roof over their head. It makes a difference.”
For more information about Bridges Alliance of Johnson County visit bridgesalliancejc.org.
Outdoor Yoga and Potluck Dinner Fundraiser
WHAT: Bridges Alliance of Johnson County will partner with Studio You Yoga & Pilates for an outdoor yoga and potluck dinner fundraiser. Suggested donation: $10. All proceeds benefit Bridges Alliance of Johnson County. Bring a vegetarian dish to share. In an effort to be environmentally conscious, we encourage you to bring your own plate, cups and silverware.
WHEN: Sept. 29, 5-8 p.m. Yoga begins at 5:15 p.m. and the potluck starts at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Westside Park, 820 W. Main St., Greenwood. (In case of rain, we will either move this event to the studio or reschedule the event.)
INFO: Go to Facebook: Bridges Alliance jc.