Elkhart’s poorer, more diverse south-central neighborhood focus of three-day series

Thursday Nov. 12, 2015

Some of the people of south-central Elkhart, top row, left to right: Tara Morris, Shirley Jarman, Jean Mayes. Middle row, left to right: Forrest Ludwick, Meko Erwin, Rosie Shepherd. Bottom row, left to right: Michele Molik, Jessica Dubose, Amyia O'Brie and Mekhi Gilbert. By Tim Vandenack

Some of the people of south-central Elkhart, top row, left to right: Tara Morris, Shirley Jarman, Jean Mayes. Middle row, left to right: Forrest Ludwick, Meko Erwin, Rosie Shepherd. Bottom row, left to right: Michele Molik, Jessica Dubose, Amyia O’Brie and Mekhi Gilbert. By Tim Vandenack

I spent much of the spring, summer and fall talking to people in south-central Elkhart and Washington Gardens, a low-income public housing development here.

We go there when there are shootings and killings, but we wanted to expand on that, get to know the people of the zone, one of the poorest and most demographically diverse neighborhoods of the city. We wanted to hear what they have to say of life in the area, the good, the bad and the in-between.

Photographer Jennifer Shephard and I, as a reporter, did much of the work in the field, but it was a team effort including designers, editors, videographers and more. The result was a three-day series, Oct. 25-27 in the print edition:

I wrote six stories for the series, took pictures (though Shephard’s a pro and hers were far superior) and even shot some video. I culled U.S. Census Bureau data, Elkhart Police Department arrest and shooting reports and figures from Washington Gardens. Mostly, though, it was about knocking on doors, hitting the pavement, seeking out people and getting them to tell their stories.

It was a tough juggling act. I still contributed to the paper on a regular basis, covered my regular beat, City Hall, squeezing in visits to the area and the people when time permitted. But it was eye-opening, rewarding to do, well worth it, and I think we offered many in Elkhart a glimpse they maybe had never seen into a neighborhood that sits smack dab in the middle of it all.

Here are my contributions:

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