In the spring of 2016, Evansville received a 10-year Promise Zone designation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, making the area eligible for federal grants to fight poverty. One of only 22 national designations, the zone extends to Veteran’s Memorial Parkway and Waterworks Road (south and west), to Diamond Avenue (north), and Green River Road (east). Evansville Promise Zone Director Silas Matchem says it’s a way to find long-term solutions to homelessness, underemployment, and hunger — not short-term fixes.
“I firmly believe it’s not a lack of resources in the city of Evansville, but it’s getting people connected to them,” says Matchem.
In its third year, the ECHO Housing Corporation initiative is gaining traction with the community and taking action for residents’ immediate needs. One such need is affordable housing, like Garfield Commons and Garvin Lofts. In May, the Promise Zone built its 250th home with the help of public and private partnerships, reaching a major housing milestone a year and a half ahead of schedule.
The Promise Zone also connects residents to Evansville’s many resources by offering trolley rides to grocery stores, hosting information sessions about finances, and encouraging economic growth within the zone. The program thrives through resident-driven revitalization, which includes community meetings and surveys to collect feedback.
“The Promise Zone is only as strong as its residents and agencies,” says Matchem.
Moving forward, the Evansville Promise Zone is developing a new website and mobile app, since 89 percent of people living in the area have smartphones or have access to smart technology. The app, which is set to launch at the end of the year, will help residents find instant solutions to their needs with push notifications — for example, the app will locate an available bed and give the user directions to it.