Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some Initial Findings

Three years ago, Nick and I enrolled in home buyer education classes through a county non-profit, The DuPage Homeownership Center. Even when we had two incomes, our family of three qualified for assistance because of the cost of living and taxation in DuPage county. Our reading in the Bible and about missional communities (yes, book review of Platt's "Radical" is still to come) has us gleaning the old DHOC paperwork for information that would guide where we live.

1939 aerial photo of Naperville (all of the county available through the IL State Geological Survey)
For example, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program encourages buyers who want to invest and rehab in neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates and poor quality housing. Follow the links and you end up with this Map of Areas of Greatest Need (PDF). Perfect!

Another source of information to guide us has been long-time members in our church. As others hear about this upcoming move, interesting information starts coming back to us. Like how our church hired a vicar (technically my husband's designation until ordination) years ago who chose to live in one of today's greatest need areas... right across from our church... and he was granted free rent if he tried to build community and communal activities. It turns out that even way back when, the landlords recognized a high rate of turn-over and the  needs of people seeking leases there.

Like how just three years ago, it was easy to name about 5 people living in that same area right across from our church. Now? Only 1 person comes to mind who is currently living there. This is troubling because it coincides with a trend among those ages 22-40 in our church who marry, leave their apartments quickly, and buy a house too far from church to easily invite neighbors. Like how in contrast, a single mom has chosen to live in an apartment complex directly behind one of our church sites - for the sake of reaching out.

Just prior to graduation as a teacher, I researched school stats online to add robustness to cover letters for job applications. Now, I'm using maps of districts in the county to look closely at fringe areas and borders. See, when "get a good education, it'll take you far" rules in the minds of suburbanites, school districts become so important. Unincorporated areas get the shaft, with crazy long distances to schools. Overlaying the NSP info with the district maps, low cost of living areas with high rate of turn over coincide with district border areas. This is unfortunate, because long distances to school add stress and steal time from families who barely keep it together. These communities need light and hope.

photo courtesy of Release the A.P.E.
Researching where to live still pulls some self-centered gut strings in us. It seems that God is giving seeds of hope. Here's two. Gut pull: wanting a yard to grow veggies, or at least proximity to community garden plots. Seed of hope: converting huge lawn space on our church property into garden plots that also feed the homeless. Gut pull: a third bedroom for an office/study. Seed of hope: being present in an apartment community center, less studying yet more conversations. This afternoon had me searching God's word for hope, and reading Matthew 5 in parallel NIV and the Message translations.

"This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

This afternoon I also loved Release the A.P.E's multi-ethnic post. There will be some digging around in census data in the future. It's another vital part of this housing search for us. We gotta learn to live God's calling, not just like or verbalize it, not just send some other people to corners of the world.

"When multiethnic ministry is an expression of our apostolic calling it becomes something more than another value to care about. It is the benchmark of mission; the people of God sent to every culture. Apostolic multiethnicity is more than getting different colored people in a room together; it’s a diverse community of disciples being sent to every corner."

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