One of the questions I get asked the most is about the neighborhood where Impact! Church is located. People want to know if it’s really “the hood”. Here is the answer:
We are located in the Parker Street community just north of downtown Lakeland, Florida. It is known as one of the most impoverished areas in all of Central Florida. In the 6-block radius around Impact! Church the number of families living in poverty is 3 times higher than the national average. Every Lakeland homeless shelter – along with a majority of the rehab facilities – are located a block or less from the church. 72% of our neighbors live below the federal poverty line, with 92% of the children eligible for the Free Lunch Program at school. Over 50% are unemployed and only 19% have an education beyond a high school diploma. With an average yearly household income of around $20,000, over 70% have to rent on a weekly payment schedule because they cannot afford to buy a home. The Parker Street neighborhood has the highest eviction rate of any area in Polk County. Couples who get married in the area are 75% more likely to get a divorce than what is normal in the US and there are more than twice as many single-parent homes in this community than the US average. The Parker Street community is 77% non-white, 53% are single-parent homes and hundreds sleep in the streets or shelters at night.*
It is considered a high-crime area – though very few violent crimes. Most offenses are for public intoxication, prostitution, possession of drugs and trespassing (homeless people sleeping on the streets). On any given day there will be dozens of people sitting on every corner around the church waiting to be fed or panhandling among the traffic stopped at red lights. Every Sunday we have a clean-up crew that scourers the church property picking up the beer cans, used blankets and drug paraphernalia left behind from the night before. Our worship services and weekly Bible studies are packed with people from all walks of life – alcoholics, middle class families, drug addicts, the homeless, wealthy business owners, college students, prostitutes and blue collar workers barely making ends meet. 82% of our regular attenders had no church home before they came to us – 36% had never been to a church before. Because of the neighborhood we are located in – and because of our culture – Impact! Church is a small multi-cultural, multi-socioeconomic congregation. To say that we are diverse would be an understatement. That’s why we moved from a suburban upper middle-class elementary school to a run down old building in the heart of the city’s homeless population.
By the way, the picture of the homeless man and his dog featured in this blog post was taken beside the front door of Impact! Church. That is “normal” around here.
For more information about how you can partner with Impact! Church to help people in need, please click here.
* Data Sources: Lakeland Police Department, U.S. Census 2010, Claritas, Percept, AEP Enrollment Forms, Door-to-Door Community Survey