Without the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, Fort Wayne resident Aquila White is confident she would not be where she is today – a homeowner.
White, 35, is a former participant in the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program – often referred to as Section 8 – and of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program. She is one of thousands of residents who sought housing assistance from the Fort Wayne Housing Authority – a number that is increasing as the price of rent continues to rise nationwide. Long waitlists and difficulty finding landlords and property owners willing to participate can create harrowing challenges for those in need of assistance.
Government officials and social service agencies have noted a rise in housing assistance applications in recent years – many of them from individuals and families who have never applied before. It’s an issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many who receive housing vouchers, White fell victim to the social stigma and distrust that has been associated with Section 8 and other forms of housing assistance for decades. Officials and social service agencies actively work to combat the preconceived notions many have about the voucher program, but acknowledge it’s a difficult task, especially when negative experiences get amplified over the program’s successes.
“I think for someone to be on a program like (the voucher program), especially those really, truly working in the program, should have a different light shined on them,” White said in an interview. “They deserve the same opportunity as everyone else.”
What is Section 8?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is federal housing assistance. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program is designed to help very low-income individuals and families – as well as elderly and disabled residents – afford quality homes. Although funded by the federal government, the program is administered by public housing agencies such as FWHA and Brightpoint. Established in 1974, the program is designed to allow voucher-holders some choice, as it allows them to seek out their own housing through participating private landlords and housing developments.
Under the voucher program, the tenant’s financial obligation is usually capped at around 30% of their annual gross income, while the voucher takes care of the rest – though some vouchers may cover up to 100% of a tenant’s rent. Landlords who choose to accept Section 8 vouchers are guaranteed to receive the full amount of the agreed-upon rent.
There is also a separate Section 8 program that combines voucher assistance for homeless veterans with case management and other services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Those who hold a voucher are required to keep the home in good, clean condition and comply with all lease terms, as well as the voucher program’s various requirements. They must also allow the public housing agency administering the program to inspect the unit.
Landlords, in turn, are bound by a Housing Assistance Payments contract, and must comply with all fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. They must also keep the unit in compliance with federal housing quality standards.
The FWHA manages public housing efforts within the city of Fort Wayne, while Brightpoint handles cases in all of northeast Indiana’s 10-county regions, in areas not already managed by a housing authority. Brightpoint is similar to the Housing Authority, but operates under the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s (IHCDA) umbrella, Brightpoint’s Supportive Housing Coordinator Matt Beer said.
The IHCDA picks up the program in rural areas not served by a housing authority, Beer said, and then works with community action agencies like Brightpoint to do the local work, adding that Brightpoint often works with the Housing Authority when rural voucher holders move within the city limits and vice-versa.
Eligibility for Section 8 housing vouchers is based on an applicant’s yearly gross income and family size. According to HUD’s website, a family’s income “may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live.”
“Area median income is determined by HUD, with adjustments for smaller and larger families,” states the FWHA’s administrative plan for the voucher program. “HUD may establish income ceilings higher or lower than 30, 50 or 80 percent of the median income for an area if HUD finds that such variations are necessary because of unusually high or low family incomes.”
According to data provided by the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 2021 Fort Wayne’s median household income was $54,737.
There are three categories with separate income limits: “Low income,” which covers a family whose yearly income is 80% or less than the area median income; “Very low income,” which covers family incomes less than 50% of the area median income; and “Extremely low income” which is defined as a family or individual whose income is 30% or less than the average median income. Public housing agencies issuing vouchers are required to provide 75% of them to applicants considered “extremely low income.”
A Fort Wayne Housing Authority Fair Market Rent and Income Limits document posted online states that as of May 1, a family of four is considered “low income” at $63,300 per year; “very low income” at $39,550 per year; and “extremely low-income” at $27,750 per year.
According to the same document, a single person earning $44,350 a year in Fort Wayne would also be considered “low-income,” and would drop to “very low income” at $27,700. A single Fort Wayne resident is considered “extremely low income” when they earn $16,650 or less per year.
Once approved for a voucher, the applicant family is placed on a waiting list – if one is open at that time – for one to come available. When a voucher is available, the family then has a set period of time, typically about three to four months, to find a suitable place to live, with a landlord willing to participate.
Who uses Section 8?
When White first sought housing assistance, she was a single mother of two and shortly after she received her voucher, she found out she was pregnant with her third child.
“I was a manager at McDonald’s and I was making pretty good money,” she said. “But not enough to make ends meet.”
Most of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority’s voucher holders come from working families like White’s, said George Guy, the agency’s executive director.
“Some of the folks that we’re seeing, they’re working, but they just don’t make enough money (to afford market-rate rent),” he said. “What they’re trying to do is survive. They’re trying to work, and take care of their families. There are some more extreme cases, but that’s really what it’s about. It’s about making sure that folks have an opportunity to be self-sufficient, so to speak.”
Like many who need housing assistance, White was making it work, but like many people, she was living paycheck to paycheck, the consequences of a lost job or unexpected illness never far from her mind.
Brightpoint’s clientele is slightly different, said Beer, the agency’s supportive housing coordinator. Most of Brightpoint’s voucher holders are elderly or disabled, he said.
According to data provided by the Housing Authority, the agency currently has 2,650 vouchers in use out of 3,123 available.
The Housing Authority has separate waiting lists for various aspects of its Section 8 program. According to data provided by the agency, there are 3,027 people currently waiting for standard vouchers, as well as an additional 462 who have applied through the Decatur Housing Authority, which is operated by the FWHA.
At McCormick Place, an apartment complex owned by the Housing Authority, 276 people are waiting for vouchers for a one-bedroom apartment; 184 are waiting for a two-bedroom voucher; 136 for a three-bedroom; 50 for a four-bedroom and 26 for a five-bedroom. There are also 465 people waiting for vouchers for space in the Posterity Heights Scholar House on Joshua Lane, the agency said.
As part of the Posterity Heights housing development, the Scholar House is a residential facility designed specifically for Section 8 participants who are single parents and are enrolled in college or a professional certification program. The 44-unit apartment building opened in May 2021.
As of July 31, Brightpoint had 338 active voucher holders and an additional 64 voucher holders in the organization’s Permanent Supportive Housing program designed for homeless and disabled clients, Beer said. Brightpoint has reduced its waitlists to zero in all 10 counties it serves, and is planning to open them up to applicants again this fall.
A struggle to find voucher options
The voucher program is an effective tool that can help families break the cycle of poverty, Guy said. But there are challenges, he added, that affect both residents waiting for vouchers, and those who already have them. Not everyone who receives a voucher is able to find suitable housing, he said. That’s why of the 3,123 vouchers the FWHA has available, only 2,650 are in use.
The problem is multifaceted, Guy said, but noted landlord participation and the availability of rental housing as two of the more prominent issues. Both have been ongoing issues, he said, but were exacerbated by the pandemic.
“What you want is for people to have a great choice and so when choice is limited in a beautiful community like Fort Wayne, that presents a problem in terms of the ability to access affordable housing.”
Access to any kind of affordable housing is also a problem in northeast Indiana’s rural communities, Beer said.
“In rural smaller towns, there aren’t as many apartment complexes, there aren’t as many landlords that may have single-family homes, or what have you that are just out there,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s not getting better, because they are building in towns like Auburn, Kendallville and Angola. Things are happening and there are some properties, but it’s limited.”
In addition to a lack of available housing stock, some landlords and property owners are choosing to end their participation in the voucher program. In June, a resident of Black Pine Flats on Fayette Drive posted on the NextDoor online community forum, stating she had received a letter from C.I.M. Living – a property management group based in Chestnut Ridge, New York that operates 11 local rental complexes – stating that the company would not be renewing her lease through the voucher program as of Sept. 30.
Although it’s unclear how many voucher-holders will have to find a new home because of the property owner’s decision to stop participating in the program, Guy said the Housing Authority is continuing to try to work with C.I.M. Living, as well as any residents who may find themselves displaced.
According to property records from the Allen County Assessor’s office, Black Pine Flat, formerly Brendonwood Apartments, is owned by My BCHP Owner I LLC. According to publicly available records, that company and C.I.M. Living share the same home office address in Chestnut Ridge. My BCHP Owner I LLC was incorporated in October 2021.
A request for comment left via C.I.M. Living’s online portal was not immediately returned.
Any time a large-scale housing provider ends their involvement in the voucher program, it can have major implications for voucher holders, Guy said.
“It’s a huge impact, because now you’ve got somebody that’s uncertain whether they’re going to have a place or not,” he said. “They go into this matrix of trying to find a place that they may not be able to find, because the market’s already tight.”
Beer said he doesn’t know exactly why some landlords are simply opting out of the program; it could be they have problems with government funding, or they don’t want to jump through any hoops to rent out their apartments. Maybe they’ve had poor experiences with voucher-holders in the past. But the impact, he said, is that it eliminates viable choices for voucher holders and means many could lose their voucher. Those that lose their vouchers because they were unable to secure a suitable home within the allotted time must re-apply for the waiting list when it reopens.
“We certainly try to work with those folks as much as possible to give them options or to extend their vouchers for as long as we can,” Beer said. But ultimately, we have had to expire people’s vouchers when they can’t find a unit.”
There are other options provided by various social service organizations that can help residents with rental assistance, but few that are as wide-ranging as the voucher program.
It can be difficult for someone in that situation to find a new place to live quickly, Beer said, “because it’s almost a full-time job to look for housing.”
“A lot of complexes and landlords will say, ‘I don’t have anything open now, check back,’” he said, adding that tenants sometimes have to check weekly or even daily for availability. “It’s tough, and a lot of them have kids and families and are working, so it’s not easy to do that.”
Once a tenant with a housing voucher is notified that a property owner will not be renewing their lease, they have a window of time in which to find another home before the voucher expires. Because the rental market is tight, and because Section 8 options are limited, that can lead to voucher holders to choose to let the voucher expire.
“Some will say, ‘All right, I know what’s going to happen. So guess what? I’ll make it work. I’ll live in this rental situation that’s way above my income and I’ll do whatever is necessary to pay the rent and stay here,’” he said. “We see a lot of that. In fact, some of the folks that are applying to get onto the voucher program are doing that, living way beyond their means to survive.”
That can mean some residents are paying two to three times more in rent than what they can actually afford, Guy added, noting that when someone is faced with expenses well beyond their existing financial means, doing whatever it takes to survive might involve risky or illegal behavior.
The pandemic was difficult for some landlords, particularly those who operate as small businesses, Guy said, and as a result, some walked away from the Section 8 program. However, he noted that the Housing Authority was able to keep most of its participating landlords on board.
In addition to lack of available housing stock and participating landlords, agencies like the Housing Authority and Brightpoint have a limited number of vouchers they can distribute and waitlisted tenants can sometimes wait anywhere from one to five years for one to come available. The tightening rental housing market has only exacerbated that problem, Guy said. It can be difficult for voucher holders to find qualifying homes within the 120-day timeframe. And if a resident is unable to find a place to live within that period, they may forfeit their voucher.
Funding is another of the issues that affect the efficacy of the voucher program, Guy said. Nearly all of the Housing Authority’s funding comes from HUD, he said. Public housing agencies like his have been underfunded by about 20-30% for the last decade, he said, noting Congress typically “appropriates about 70-75% of the funds required to effectively administer the voucher program.
“It’s gone up a bit in recent years, but it’s still underfunded,” Guy said.
According to data provided by the Housing Authority, the agency received about $1.85 million from the federal government for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, about 88% of what it estimates it needs to fully fund the program for 2022.
Alleviating the pressure
Agencies such as the Housing Authority and others are constantly exploring new programs and methods to help alleviate the pressure both on the Housing Authority and on those who need rental assistance, Guy said.
The program that helped White become a homeowner, is one such program, although it’s not a new one. It’s the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, created in the early 1990s and designed for families who are committed to one day no longer need welfare programs and rental assistance.
“The (Family Self-Sufficiency) program seeks to help participants make measurable progress toward economic security so that they no longer need welfare programs, are less dependent on rental assistance and are better able to achieve the goals they set out for themselves and plan for the future,” HUD’s website states in an online overview of the program.
The Family Self-Sufficiency program pairs two main features to help participants create opportunities and develop necessary life skills. The first is the creation of an interest-generating escrow savings account maintained by the Housing Authority on behalf of the participant.
As is typical for those with a voucher, or who live in public housing, residents’ rent payments are based on a percentage of their income, and as a family’s income increases, so does the amount they must pay toward their rent. Under the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, a portion of those rent increases is recaptured and placed into the escrow account by the Housing Authority.
This allows participants to build savings over time. And when they graduate from the program, participants are given access to those funds for whatever they may need. Participants may also access the escrow account for specific needs while working through the program.
To graduate, all household members need to be independent from welfare programs for 12 months prior to the end of the program contract, and the head of the household must obtain and maintain a suitable job. Participants may also set any number of additional goals as well. Typically, Family Self-Sufficiency is a five-year program, but can be extended for another two in some circumstances.
Homeownership was one of White’s main goals, as was learning to budget and manage money. She took several courses related to both of those goals while working with the Housing Authority. White started the Family Self-Sufficiency program around 2014, and graduated in the summer of 2021.
“The program helped me stay driven and stay determined,” she said. “And I graduated from the program as a homeowner.”
Recent changes in federal policy have allowed the Housing Authority more flexibility with its funding, Guy said. That includes something called “Stepped Rents,” as part of its Moving To Work program, he said. The Moving to Work program, according to an overview provided by the Housing Authority, seeks to specifically aid families with children whose head of household is working, seeking work or participating in job training, educational or other programs with the goal of gaining employment and becoming financially self-sufficient. The program is also meant to increase housing choices for low-income families.
The Housing Authority’s new Stepped Rent program is the only one of its kind in the state, and one of just a few across the Midwest, Guy said. Under that program the Housing Authority will establish rent payments based on a tenant’s income. According to an overview provided by the Housing Authority, participating tenants’ rent will increase each year by 2% of the Fair Market Rent rates established by HUD. That increase “will be a specific dollar amount, by unit size,” the overview states, adding that the housing authority plans to increase the stepped rent by 2% each year, and then review and adjust that rate whenever Housing and Urban Development updates its Fair Market Rent assessment. Under the new program, first-year rent payments will be set at 30% of a tenant’s adjusted income, or at the FWHA minimum rent of $50.
“We had to go through a competitive process to be able to do that,” he said. “So we’re excited about that.”
The agency is also “repositioning” some of its older public housing stock, through renovations and redevelopments designed to add more affordable housing units to the community. The Housing Authority has also split up its voucher program waiting list, to hopefully help streamline the process for those in line for assistance.
“We’re always looking for ways that we can address the challenges when it comes to affordable housing,” he said, adding that public-private partnerships are integral to alleviating housing issues.
“Funding is good. We need more funding, but we have to be creative enough and understand that we have different types of partnerships and levers,” he said. “That’s how these things happen, you have to leverage those things.”
Although building more affordable housing options is a positive thing, Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, who represents the city’s Sixth District, cautioned against concentrating the developments in one geographic area.
“When you concentrate poverty into one area, sadly economic development doesn’t seem to grow as much as it does in areas that have mixed income levels,” she said. “We see that now in southeast Fort Wayne, where poverty has been concentrated into this corner and the lack of amenities can be overlapped with that area. If you overlapped health disparities, that would be in the same area as well.”
Spreading out affordable housing options into every quadrant of the city will help foster more fair and even economic development, she said.
“What entices growth is amenities for (a company’s) employees and that’s why we’re doing all of this stuff that we’re doing downtown,” Tucker said. “But the exact opposite happens too. If we have nothing to offer a group or an individual, the likelihood they’ll say this is where we want to plant a business is slim to nil.”
Reducing the affordable housing stigma would go a long way to helping alleviate the pressure.
Beer acknowledged that changing attitudes can be “a tall order,” but added that engagement has been the subject of discussions at Brightpoint, particularly landlord engagement. The agency plans to host some webinars in the near future to promote the program to landlords.
“We’re trying to re-engage those landlords who have left the program or engage new landlords to be willing to accept the program,” he said. “Pointing out the positives of the program is a huge thing that I must do every day when talking to landlords.”
More acceptance among the community toward affordable housing developments would result in higher housing stock, a step toward mitigating the supply side of the problem, Beer said.
“If people would be a little bit more open to affordable housing units and developments, say in the north side of Fort Wayne or the southwest side of Fort Wayne that are affordable, yes, but decent places, housing your neighbors, your fellow community members who may be a little bit lower income, may have a voucher or may not,” he said. “Ultimately, that would get more supply out there in communities that may not have as many lower-income complexes or developments.”
Where some encourage increasing the housing stock available for existing voucher holders, others advocate for the expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose 2016 book, “Evicted,” won the Pulitzer Prize, and who is the principal investigator at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, is one of those people. Expansion is necessary because the program’s main obstacle is the waiting list, he told the Fort Wayne Media Collaborative in a June 23 interview. Desmond was the keynote speaker at the Housing Authority’s Housing Summit in April, which attracted more than 200 housing activists.
Desmond also said he believes landlords should be required to participate in the voucher program, in conjunction with better outreach to property owners in order to streamline the process.
Inspections can also be done, he said, in a more landlord-friendly way, while also combating discrimination.
“It’s not OK to turn away a family just because they’re in possession of a housing voucher, or because they have children, or because they’re African-American,” he said. “There are certain forms of discrimination that still really are alive and well in our housing system today. Monitoring and enforcing anti-discrimination laws is an important part of the solution.”
Other solutions Desmond identified involve breaking down the way in which communities view affordable housing, as well as embracing Permanent Supportive Housing initiatives, such as the Housing First model, for those who are homeless.
“We need to look at this as a community problem,” he said in June. “And stop looking at eviction as a solution but as a problem.”
Barriers and Stigma
After she received her voucher in 2011, White said finding a home was her biggest challenge.
“I went out to a lot of apartments and houses and people would be so nice to me,” she said. “But there would be a tone change when I mentioned the voucher.”
White said potential landlords would greet her warmly and excitedly guide her on a tour of a unit, only to sour and usher her out of the home once she mentioned her voucher.
It was embarrassing, she said, and made her feel less than human.
Both Guy, the housing authority director, and Beer, Brightpoint’s supportive housing coordinator, identified the social stigma surrounding affordable housing as a barrier for an array of housing assistance initiatives.
“There are times when a landlord may have experienced a tough situation with a tenant – maybe they didn’t take care of the unit very well, or they left a big mess when they moved out – and that burns a lot of landlords and you know, it gives a bad name to the program,” Beer said.
Those bad experiences happen sometimes, Beer said, but don’t represent the majority of the residents who rely on Section 8. Those bad experiences seem to carry further than the good ones, leaving advocates in a tough position as they attempt to keep a dissatisfied landlord from leaving the program. And those who are dissatisfied with the program are often more outspoken about their experiences than others.
“It’s tough for us to overcome because that’s their only experience a lot of times with the program,” Beer said. “We have folks that have done so well for themselves, educationally or career-wise to make more money than they are allowed to, and get off of the program, but those stories aren’t amplified or publicized as much.”
Those who work for public housing agencies advocate for their clients, assuring sometimes skittish landlords that they’re guaranteed at least the portion of the rent covered by the voucher, while reassuring them that tenants must follow their lease and take good care of the unit, lest they lose their assistance. But it sometimes isn’t enough.
Outspoken community opposition to affordable housing projects, voices sometimes amplified by local media coverage, have at times halted or drastically modified plans for developments that housing officials believe would have helped alleviate supply and availability demands. There’s a term for it – Not In My Backyard, or NIMBY.
Those who work in affordable housing describe NIMBY-ism as neighborhood pushback against various forms of affordable housing. These arguments, which often center around concerns about public safety and property values, are often steeped in misinformation and racism, affordable housing proponents say.
The NIMBY mindset has always existed, Guy said, but appears to be more prevalent than in the past. He noted that social stigma to affordable housing does not stop at the Section 8 program, but extends to public housing developments and projects that take advantage of low-income tax credits, a state-level tax break that incentivizes some developers to include an affordable housing component.
But there is some hope. Both Guy and Beer said they were optimistic over Senate Bill 1614, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana. Titled The Yes in My Backyard Act, municipalities that receive federal Community Development Block Grant funds would be required to submit information regarding certain land use policies, including plans to expand high-density single-family and multi-family zoning options, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It would also shed light on localities that favor high-end to affordable housing options, the senator told journalists from the Fort Wayne Media Collaborative in May. The bill was introduced in May 2021, but has remained in committee for over a year.
Breaking through the social stigma associated with housing assistance and homelessness can be difficult, because there are many who have never experienced housing insecurity, or have never known someone who has.
“I don’t think people realize that there’s such a population, even in rural areas,” said Beer, Brightpoint’s supportive housing coordinator. “You tend to think of those things in big cities, but it’s the same in other, smaller parts of the country.”
There can sometimes be a lack of understanding there, he said. Many people may simply just be unaware of people who have struggled financially or who have a disability and can’t work.
It’s important to remember the human factor when talking about affordable housing, Tucker said.
“By that I mean, it’s embarrassing,” she said, “No one that is homeless wants other people to know that they’re homeless. I don’t know of too many people who will stand on the rooftop and shout that to the world.”
It’s also important, she said, to avoid painting people who need housing assistance with a broad brush.
“Not everybody that’s homeless is unemployed,” she added.
She noted that it’s hard for a parent to afford a mortgage, childcare, food, and other expenses on $15 an hour, which is often held up as the current minimum standard for a “livable wage.” Those same expenses are impossible to meet on the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“That can make a person need affordable housing, and if it doesn’t exist, what are they going to do?” she said. “Not everybody is lazy or nonworking. When the boss says no overtime, for some that’s no money to go out this week. For others that’s not enough money for rent.”
Tucker is also executive director of Vincent Village, which provides affordable housing and supportive services for homeless families. Although she was not a Section 8 recipient, Tucker said she at one time did take advantage of an affordable housing option called a co-op. The assistance helped her and her daughter get back on their feet after her divorce. Rent in the co-op was income-based, and all of the residents were required to handle basic maintenance like shoveling their sidewalks or mowing their own grass.
“I’m glad that benefit was there for me when I found myself single, divorced with a little person,” Tucker said. “That’s how it is for a lot of people who find themselves in a lot of debt or facing homelessness, just trying to find room to breathe. They can’t figure out how to put the pieces together, because everything is falling apart.”
And as people get further down that road, Tucker said, it gets more difficult to break away from the stigma. Having an eviction record can cause landlords and even some potential employers to deny applications. In some cases, Tucker said that can make a person even more vulnerable. Some might be forced into substandard living conditions, while others might face abuse at the hands of their landlord, which often goes unreported.
The stigma and difficulty involved with finding a home under the voucher program meant that once White found an apartment complex willing to accept her voucher, she stayed there until she graduated from the Family Self-Sufficiency program.
“I didn’t want to go through the hassle and the embarrassment of having to continually explain about my voucher,” she said, adding that her landlord’s property managers and maintenance team were “extremely fair,” and never treated White or her family differently than tenants paying market-rate.
White also used the embarrassment and stigma as a motivating factor toward becoming self-sufficient. But it was worth it, to walk away from it as a homeowner. She and her family went from a small upper-floor apartment to a two-story single-family home with a basement.
Her kids, now 16, 15 and 9, have more space than she thought was possible years ago. Her daughter Natalee is interested in photography and Jaydin, her oldest son, wants to one day become a neurosurgeon. It was an 11-year journey, but White said she has no regrets because she “did it for my kids.”
“To know where I came from and all the embarrassment, I no longer have to be embarrassed, I no longer have to settle on a place to live,” she said. “I chose where I wanted to live and nobody could tell me no.”
But that embarrassment and the stigma around rental assistance programs like Section 8 shouldn’t exist in the first place, she said, adding that she’s used her experience to encourage friends and family members to seek out housing assistance on their own. And in early October, White stood and told her story to the 2022 graduates from the Housing Authority’s Self-Sustainability program.
“I want people to understand that there is no reason to be ashamed,” she said. “I’ll never be ashamed, because the Housing Authority helped make this happen for me.”
Dave Gong is a freelance journalist and the community engagement coordinator for the Fort
Wayne Media Collaborative. Dave has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Northern Illinois University
and a Master of Arts in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. From 2014 to
2021, Dave covered Fort Wayne and Allen County, as the Local Government Reporter for The Journal
Gazette and previously covered government and politics for several daily newspapers in Illinois.