Closure of center chance to seek new opportunities

Throughout nearly 40 years, the Eastside Community Center has provided important programs for Columbus residents on foreclosure prevention, financial planning and asset building.

The center, which had its own financial problems, closed indefinitely Oct. 26 after its director and board of directors resigned.

Financial struggles are nothing new to Eastside Community Center, which has been rescued several times during its history. But it’s unclear whether Eastside Community Center can or will reopen this time. In the meantime, clients who received help there will be looking to other local agencies for assistance they once received. But it’s also uncertain whether those resources will remain available in Columbus.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is working to ensure that residents already enrolled in foreclosure prevention and individual development account programs continue to receive those services. Thrive Alliance, which helps elderly residents find affordable housing, said it’s unable to provide the same resources, and the United Way of Bartholomew County said understanding residents’ needs is a step that should be taken before committing to resources.

While the situation is unfortunate, it also provides an opportunity for community stakeholders to step back and re-evaluate. Since the city owns the building and property, it is important for Mayor-elect Jim Lienhoop to be involved in the process — now and when his administration takes office Jan. 1.

Re-evaluating the center’s role could help stakeholders better understand residents’ needs, which in turn would identify priorities and suggest how the center could best serve the community. Such a process could even uncover new opportunities.

One new approach worth considering is a broader reach.

While the center serves anyone in Bartholomew County, it has had an emphasis on Columbus’ east side residents — starting with its name. However, many community issues are broad in scope and a new Eastside Community Center — or whatever it might be called — could play a role in addressing them.

We urge local stakeholders to work together to seek solutions so residents who have fallen on hard times can continue to find their way to self-sufficiency. The same can be said for the Eastside Community Center.