Late for Nowhere

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Fort Wayne bike shop serves homeless community

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Early in his adult life, Michael Brown worked as a city planning consultant in Chicago. Eventually, he came to believe that rewriting zoning ordinances and establishing great landscaping designs were not the real solutions to community problems; the real issue, he said, was “the condition of our soul.” The realization prompted his shift to a new career as pastor for a suburban Chicago church.

In 2003, Brown moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to serve as co-pastor at Mission Church on Cass Street. Five years ago he established Heart of the City Bicycles at the church, a bike shop for the homeless community and those who use their bikes as a main source of transportation. Open Fridays from 9am to noon, the shop averages 15 to 20 repairs a week, as well as 125 to 150 earn-a-bikes a year.

How did you get the idea to start Heart of the City Bicycles?

When I was a pastor in Chicago, our church had a very large group of cyclists. I was trying to find a way to really give back to the community instead of focusing on, “Hey, we’re doing all these really great rides.” So we started volunteering down at the Men’s Rescue Mission. We’d go in quarterly and fix up bikes. Then I became a co-pastor at Mission Church in Fort Wayne. We acquired our current building six years ago, and for five years we’ve had Heart of the City Bicycles.

What services does the shop provide?

We provide repair services on a weekly basis. We do an earn-a-bike program for those who would like to make strides toward getting their own bicycle, so they do community-related projects like cleaning up the Fort Wayne River Greenway and cleaning up the Wells Street Corridor. We also teach bike-repair lessons. We have an apron program. It’s like martial-arts belts – you can go Yellow Apron, Red Apron, Green Apron, Black Apron. The teaching is done by our four main volunteers. We’ll just kind of mentor somebody. The Yellow Apron takes about four weeks.

How does the program benefit the community?

We’ve recognized that poverty is not a financial issue. It manifests itself in all different areas, so we build relationships with these folks and help them learn life skills. We created a shop here that is relatively clean and organized, because many of these folks have a lot of chaos in their lives. From a very simple level, we think that a person having adequate transportation is a great start. Some of these folks don’t have the ability to acquire a driver’s license. Cars are expensive, and bicycles are a very effective form of transportation, as most of the rest of the world knows. We have a great infrastructure for bike paths in Fort Wayne, and we want to take advantage of that. If we can give folks the ability to get around to job interviews, jobs, healthcare appointments, and so forth, we think that helps with their quality of life.

Written by latefornowhere

September 17, 2018 at 11:34 am

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