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Fort Wayne

 

Fort Wayne, Indiana is my hometown. I was born here in 1975, and I have lived most of my life in this mid-sized city of 250,000 in northeast Indiana.

My hometown has changed a lot in the last several decades. When my father graduated from Fort Wayne's Elmhurst High School in 1968, at age 18, he quickly found a job as a technician with the local telephone company. The job paid a living wage, equal to about $14 an hour in today's money, and led to a solidly middle class life for my family. He worked there for more than 30 years.

When I graduated from Elmhurst in 1994, there were few living wage jobs for high school grads. We were told to go to college; a bachelors degree was the new requirement for a decent job. I earned my degree at Indiana University's Fort Wayne campus in 1999, and found that there were no jobs, at all, for college grads. I applied for more than 800 jobs, and got just one interview in six years of looking for work. Finally, I ended up with no place to live and had nothing to eat, so I moved to Santa Fe in hope of finally living a decent life.

Most of my classmates and friends were also unable to find employment. Those who found jobs made $7 or $8 an hour, half what it costs to support a single person here. That is the fate of most young people here, unless they leave, as I did. I came back at the end of 2007 to care for my son, whose mother was unable to take care of him anymore.

These photographs are the Fort Wayne that I see today. Not the fancy buildings downtown or the rich neighborhoods where the few live away from the masses. This is the city as it is experienced by the 99% of its people who are not wealthy, who make $8 an hour and struggle to survive. Fort Wayne is dying because its industry has all been exported to the third world and the remaining businesses don't need anyone because the thriving middle class that supported them is mostly made up of older people, like my father, who are retiring. They're being replaced by people making poverty wages. The high school that my father, mother, sister, and I had all attended was closed by the Fort Wayne Community Schools at the end of the 2009-2010 school year because of budget constraints.

I have devoted special attention to a couple of areas of Fort Wayne that interest me especially. They have their own portfolios: Waynedale is the area of the city where I grew up, and Wells Street is one of the more interesting and diverse areas of the city. Norton's Motel, an abandoned motel on the city's east side, also has a separate portfolio.

 

 

 

 

[ 309 ] Items