TERRE HAUTE —
This community offers lots of convincing reasons for people to call it “home.”
The city and county parks, from Deming to Prairie Creek. The college campuses, and the energy their students inject into Terre Haute. Music, from the Blues at the Crossroads Festival to the symphony. Active churches, both historic and modern. Strong public schools. A top-flight library. The Arts Corridor. Diverse restaurants. Bookstores with variety. Coffeehouses with personality. A spirit of volunteerism. Affordable housing. Relative safety, peace and quiet.
The good life surrounds us here.
Yet, it’s so hard to see “Terre Haute” and “Vigo County” consistently positioned at or near the top of Indiana child-poverty rankings.
It happened again this month. The annual Kids Count survey, produced by the respected Annie E. Casey Foundation, analyzed 16 areas of child well-being on national, state and local levels. The study accounted for health care, household and community situations, education and economic factors. This year, Indiana ranked a lowly 31st among the 50 states, overall. In specific categories, Indiana rated 36th in education (most Hoosier kids, 61 percent, don’t attend preschool), and 34th in health. Statewide, 21.6 percent of children under age 18 live in poverty.
The predicament is even more troubling locally.
According to those latest Kids Count figures, 27 percent of school-age youngsters in Vigo County live below the poverty level. That family-income line is set at just $22,113. Despite that low threshold, this college community blessed with five higher learning institutions ranks 81st out of 92 Indiana counties.
The bottom end of child-poverty statistics is familiar territory for Vigo County. In a report by the Indiana Commission on Childhood Poverty released last December, Vigo County shouldered the state’s highest poverty rate for kids at 28.7 percent. That number matters. A lot. Health-care costs are high for youths lacking proper nutrition and preventive medical attention. Children living in poverty, on average, begin their school careers with fewer academic skills, and may require years of remediation. The long-term ramifications, especially for teenagers who wind up dropping out of school, include a greater tendency to commit crimes and to live as adults in poverty.
In many cases, parents earning incomes below the poverty line are working long hours or multiple jobs in this tough economy. (According to the commission, 1 out of 3 kids in Indiana lives in low-income working families.) But low incomes here are even lower than in many Hoosier communities.
In 2009, the Legislature created the commission to evaluate the costs and effects of childhood poverty. Lawmakers also asked the commission to formulate a plan to cut the childhood poverty rate in half by 2020. The commission worked through 2010 and 2011, conducting public forums around the state. It issued its report and 26 recommendations on New Year’s Eve.
The Legislature, altered by the 2010 elections, focused on other pressing matters last spring, such as right-to-work and immigration, rather than childhood poverty.
“It was not a good time for the report to come out, given all the other agendas in the General Assembly,” said Michael Patchner, the dean of the Indiana University School of Social Work and chairman of the commission.
The coming legislative session may not be any more welcoming. The author of the bill that created the commission, Rep. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, doesn’t expect the panel’s 26 recommendations — two of which are building a statewide database on poverty issues and funding for early-childhood literacy programs — to see much action in 2013.
“I think the trend is away from more government services and more government intervention,” Kruse said by telephone Wednesday. State and federal programs already in place serve kids in poverty, he added.
Yet the problem persists.
The response falls, then, to local communities, and Vigo County schools (where more than half of the students in the corporation receive free or reduced-price lunches), service groups, charities and churches already address the fallout of kids growing up needy. They understand the day-to-day complications in a city in which the median household income is $31,117 — well below the state median of $47,697, and even farther under the national median of $51,914.
The problem, though, isn’t always seen by everyone else.
“I think poverty is often hidden,” Patchner said.
Let’s all keep looking more closely.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
This community offers lots of convincing reasons for people to call it “home.”
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- John bypassed by Hall of Fame again