What does living in Southeast Fort Wayne mean to you? Residents fill us in

In getting to know the people and communities of Southeast Fort Wayne, Input Fort Wayne sat down with four residents in the 46803 and 46806 zip codes, asking them to share their experiences and hopes for the area.

While their responses don’t speak for everyone, they do offer a glimpse into the lives of our neighbors from Southeast, and why they choose to call this community home.

Jacqueline Redd Redd says many of her neighbors are also longtime residents who share a similar fondness of their neighborhood and each other.

Jacqueline Redd has lived in the same house in Southeast Fort Wayne for 41 years. She grew up in the East Central neighborhood until her parents moved to their current home near McMillen Park.

“We lived on the corner of Hugh and McCulloch, a block away from the McCulloch Center,” Redd says. “My first real life was at that Center; it was pretty much where I grew up.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, the McCulloch Center was a second home for many of the teenagers living in the area. It was as much a place to learn life skills and social etiquette as it was to socialize.

Redd’s parents built their McMillen Park home when she went away to college. She spent her adult years in that house until she got married. Today, her home near Weisser Park is only about a mile away from the house where her mother still lives.
“I love the people in my neighborhood,” she says. “I’m about the third generation on my street because once people come, they stay.”

A sense of community and connectedness is a common refrain for many residents living on the Southeast side.
“Cars go up and down the street; they honk, you wave,” Redd says. “Sometimes you know them; sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t matter.”

It’s that type of familiarity that keeps Redd living on the Southeast side. Many of her neighbors are also longtime residents who share a similar fondness of their neighborhood and each other.

“It’s not unusual to see quite a few people out on their porches,” she says. “People help, and they’re really friendly. I love it here, and I’ll probably never leave.”

Youth play basketball at the Jennings Center in Southeast Fort Wayne.

Even so, Redd knows her experience is not the picture that often gets painted about her side of town. Reports of violence and crime in Southeast often outshine the positives happening in the community.

“Some people tell me, ‘Well, your street is different than a lot of these other streets.’ But I don’t know.” she says. “We’re close to Weisser Park. People say it’s dangerous, that people have been shot and killed over there. I go over there. I’ve taken my great-grandson over there to play.”

To Redd, the danger that others might assume about the Southeast side just isn’t the case.

“I feel very safe,” she says. “We get a reputation that it’s drug-ridden and violence over here. If people ever actually physically drove through the neighborhood, they would see that’s not true. And I think a lot of problems like crime and drugs are all over the city, but they don’t get the same publicity we get. It’s their loss that they can’t enjoy the full city because they’re not here.”

Linda Davis Davis

As someone who has lived on the South side of Fort Wayne since 1970, Linda Davis wants people to know that “everything isn’t bad” in her neighborhood.

While stereotypes and media representation might lead people to believe that there are no perks to living in the Southeast quadrant, this part of the city is where Davis prefers to be—above all other options.

“It’s a nice area,” she says. “When you hear about violence, it makes you think, ‘Oh gosh, who wants to live here?’ But that’s not everywhere.”

Instead, Davis has found that the Southeast side is a peaceful place to live where she loves her neighbors, and that working on the South side near home is both convenient and profitable. Her business Linda’s Touche Beauty Salon is located at 3704 S Calhoun St. a short distance from her house.

“I like the availability of getting where I need to go in a short period of time,” she says. “There are no traffic jams like out North.”
But traffic jams aren’t the only disparity Davis notices between the North and South sides of town. While the North side often has more traffic, it also has more entertainment and dining options as well as higher quality amenities than she sees around her neighborhood.

Instead of thinking about the South and Southeast sides of Fort Wayne as places ripe for investment, Davis believes that many people see these areas as being unable to support business, development, and growth. But as an entrepreneur and resident in the area herself, she has a different perspective.

“People act like there’s no money on the South end of town. We spend money,” she says. “My husband and I earn a decent living. I think we’d be considered middle-class people. There are middle-class people living on the South end of town.”

Amenities like Pontiac Mall are assets in Southeast.

Davis says her dream for the Southeast side is for more local and high-quality businesses, restaurants, and stores to open there. She’d also like to see more housing additions providing opportunities for homeownership in the community.

“Recently, my husband and I were driving out North, and I said, ‘Look at all these housing additions that they’re putting up out here; look at all the stores and restaurants,’” Davis says. “What do we have by comparison?”

Perhaps if there were more attractions driving traffic to the Southeast quadrant, there would be fewer stereotypes about the area, too.

Erika York Erika York relocated back to the 46806 zip code about three years ago.

After growing up in Southeast Fort Wayne and moving Southwest, Erika York relocated back to the 46806 zip code, just blocks from her old elementary school, about three years ago.

When she did, she moved into a 100-year-old home, which she felt had been neglected by the previous landlords and owners.
“I like where I live, so I’m not upset about it,” she says. “But it kind of symbolizes to me how people have forgotten this part of town.”

Since moving back to Southeast, York has found herself living in a food desert lacking economic development and adequate affordable housing. She would like to see these issues addressed in ways that are more socially responsible.

“I definitely would like to see more economic improvement,” she says. “We have the Walmart, the Menards, and everything at the old Southtown. But the downside is that a lot of those jobs are low wage.”

At the same time, while York would like to see more investment in her part of town, she wants it to be the right kind of investment that supports the current community instead of displacing it.

“I don’t want to see it gentrified,” she adds.

Despite the challenges of her new home, York says it’s the sense of community in Southeast that has made her want to move to the area after going through some major life changes.

“I had been living in the suburbs, but I got back out here, and it was kind of nice,” she says. “I feel more comfortable here because of where I grew up. I like the sense of community, especially in the summertime. This time of year, people are outside having barbecues, family get-togethers, and parties. There’s music going on all the time. People are out, and people are social. People actually talk to each other. Living suburban, everyone was kind of isolated.”

York says it’s the sense of community in Southeast that has made her want to move to the area after going through some major life changes.

Like many other residents, York points to local media coverage that creates a narrative that often fails to capture the breadth of what it's really like to live on the Southeast side of town.

“Don’t read too much into it when the news starts reporting all the negatives out here,” she says. “There’s a strong faith community here doing good work, but things like that get overshadowed. People don’t talk about the community initiatives that exist out here either. People don’t look at the sense of community; they don’t look at how people are trying to pull together.”

Dr. William Curry Dr. William Curry moved to the Southeast side at the end of 2014.

Faith is what brought Dr. William Curry to the Southeast side at the end of 2014.

“When I got my calling to pastoring, I was in the Marine Corps; I was in school at North Carolina College of Theology; and I was in Afghanistan,” Curry says. “Talking to God, I said, ‘Ok, wherever you want me to be; wherever you want me to go, I’ll go.’”

When Curry retired from the military, New Beginnings Church of Fort Wayne is where he feels that God placed him.

“Our church is on the South side; we live on the South side; and I’m a chaplain at Parkview out North, but if they had a department here on the South side, I would work there, too,” Curry says. “I just feel deeply connected to the South side of Fort Wayne.”

Southeast, in particular, is where Curry feels most at home, safe, and comforted. He talks about how his kids go out and play on the street where the neighbors all know one another.

One of the driving forces that keeps Curry on the Southeast side is the area’s diversity.

“We, as a country, are built on diversity,” he says. “I’ve seen true poverty, and I’ve seen diversity, and I must say, Fort Wayne is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever lived.”

But a larger purpose also keeps Curry anchored in the Southeast community.

“I know God has something specific for me to do here on the South side, and it’s going to be for me to empower and to impact young Black males, brown males—those who think that they can’t make it out, or think that they can’t succeed, or think that it’s impossible to do things,” he says. “What drives me is to show them that’s not the truth; that’s not the end of the story; it’s a comma where they have put periods.”

Curry wants to encourage the residents of Southeast Fort Wayne that God cares about them and has a purpose for them.

Curry wants to encourage the residents of Southeast Fort Wayne that God cares about them and has a purpose for them. He wants more people across Fort Wayne to recognize that, too.

“Every person, every young person, every old person—whatever walk of life that you’ve been in, God still sees you as his pride and joy,” Curry says. “You’re still marvelously and wonderfully made. You’re still His workmanship. And because He sees you that way, that’s the way I see you. And I want them to see themselves that way, as well. There’s purpose here. The people on the South side are worth being invested in. I wish more people would truly invest on the South side.”
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