The best way to care
Fort Wayne ranked tantalizingly close to the city ranked Most Caring among America’s 100 largest places recently by WalletHub and its team of data analysts.
Boise, Idaho, ranked 1st in Caring for the Community (measures of how community-minded the place is), 2nd in Caring for the Vulnerable & Homeless (self-explanatory) and 32nd in Caring in the Workforce (measures of how many people work in a variety of “caring” professions from medicine and social work to teaching and law enforcement). Significantly, Fort Wayne ranked 31st in Caring in the Workforce and a respectable 12th in Caring for the Community.
But it’s our rank of 85th out of 100 in Caring for the Vulnerable & Homeless that undoubtedly doomed us to our overall rank of 52nd.
A close look at the criteria in that category leads to an educated guess that the problem is probably not our number of pet shelters and rescue centers per 100,000 residents and probably not even our number of rehab centers per 100,000 residents (though we know we could use more) nor the percentage of sheltered homeless persons. It’s got to be the poverty rates, child and adult, which were given double weight in the metrics. And which have been increasing, here and statewide.
For context, Fort Wayne’s child poverty rate in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, was 27.9 percent. The top 5 best cities for child poverty rates in this Caring Cities study are all 12 percent or less, and the five cities with the worst child poverty rates are at 47.2 percent or more. For a sense of the local trend in overall poverty rate, still using U.S. Census Bureau data, Allen County’s poverty rate in 1998 was 9 percent and in 2013 was 17 percent, after having been briefly higher during the Great Recession.
There is good news. These economic woes are being energetically addressed by Fort Wayne’s leaders. Shining example? The recent win of $42 million in state Regional Cities grant funding for the Northeast Indiana region, of which Fort Wayne is the heart and biggest city. The whole point of that Regional Cities plan is to grow the region to improve economic opportunity here and increase everyone’s wealth and wellbeing.
That’s caring for the community the right way.
Learn more about this analysis at wallethub.com.