INDIANAPOLIS — The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) is officially kicking off its Summer Neighborhood Outreach Series, which brings safety resources and social services directly to neighborhoods that experience high crime and food insecurity.

“We want to hear your voice. We want to make sure we’re doing our job and the only way we can do that is you being here so that you can have a conversation with us,” said Tikilia Tinker-Martin, a Food Equity and Community Engagement Coordinator with OPHS.

The first of four total events took place on the city’s far east side at Grassy Creek Park.

“I live in this area. I’ve been over here my whole life,” said longtime far east side resident, Tasha Graves. “It’s a food desert where we live.”

While city officials provide free meal kits and fresh produce, community partners are also involved to offer mobile health screenings, gun safety items, domestic violence support, employment connections, and even public transportation resources.

“When you’re hungry, and you can’t meet a basic need in your community, then of course crime goes up,” said Tinker-Martin. “It’s not just that we’re giving them something that somebody else wouldn’t want when we’re coming into these communities, but we’re giving them high-quality items.”

OPHS peacemakers were also on-hand to pass out food and carry heavy items to Hoosiers’ cars – striking up conversation along the way.

“It gives me the opportunity to interact with people that I do not know,” said John Jones, one of the city’s peacemakers. “It actually gives them an opportunity to feel safe and comfortable with talking to us as peacemakers”

Jones said he is already making new connections with residents. He said his goal is to be a trusted resource for residents looking for long-term mentorship or guidance.

“There’s a lot of people struggling on the far east side of town,” said Jones. “So this an opportunity for them to even interact with our peacemakers and our life coaches and our outreach workers. That gives them another person that they can begin to start trusting.”

“We’re all here to support each other and we can’t do it without the city’s help and they can’t do it without our help,” said Graves. “Hopefully we’re better and we’re stronger from these type of events.”
 
The Summer Neighborhood Outreach Series will continue every Wednesday through June 22. It will take place from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in different locations each week. Those interested in attending are encouraged to follow OPHS on Facebook or Twitter for updates.