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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network director the Rev. Joshua Gale talks with an employee at his office on State Boulevard on Thursday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network director Reverend Joshua Gale speaking with an employee at his office on 2925 East State Boulevard on Thursday.  

Sunday, November 11, 2018 1:00 am

Nonprofit head brings lessons learned

Just Neighbors director back to help locally

Janet Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

Annual fundraiser

What: Just Dinner will be the third annual event for the nonprofit Just Neighbors

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Parkview Mirro Center

Cost: Tickets are $50 per person and should be ordered at Eventbrite or by sending a check to 2925 E. State Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46805. Reservation deadline is Nov. 14.

About the event: The evening will include a dinner of soup selections served in bowls made by University of Saint Francis students, staff and faculty. There will be entertainment by The Greys, a silent auction and raffle, as well as a short video produced by Brad Bores about the Just Neighbors program.

For more information: Contact Joshua Gale at 260-458-9772 or joshua@ihnfw.org.

Fort Wayne may not be Philadelphia or Lima, Peru. But the Rev. Joshua Gale, the new director of Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network, is certain the skills he learned in both places will be helpful here.

“I believe you have to step out and start doing,” said the 37-year-old Gale, who has a lot of experience dealing with poverty and homelessness.

The Concordia Theological Seminary graduate returned to Fort Wayne in June to assume the reins at Just Neighbors, which provides emergency shelter and meals for homeless families along with support to help them transition to independent living.

Gale spent the summer learning the ropes from the Rev. Terry Anderson, who retired in August after nine years with the nonprofit agency.

“Philadelphia and Lima taught me to always see myself in the position of a learner and to be comfortable with calculated risks,” Gale said.

He rates listening, learning and being willing to adapt atop the list of skills needed to tackle difficult societal issues.

Gale was born in Danville, Illinois, and followed a passion for entrepreneurship before realizing his call to ministry.

After graduating with a philosophy degree from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, Gale went into the jewelry business, working for a large retailer and starting his own enterprise in the diamond trade.

“My mother told me she thought I should go to seminary,” he recalled.

Gale sensed she might be right, and in 2007, moved to Fort Wayne to begin his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary.

During that time, he realized he was drawn to working with the poor. “My internship in Gary really solidified that,” he said.

After graduating in 2011, Gale, his wife, Amanda, and their two young children, Katharina and Zechariah, headed to Philadelphia with Philadelphia Lutheran Ministries to help the poor and homeless. Two and a half years later, they moved to Guatemala for a few months.

Working in Peru for 21/2 years gave Gale a new perspective on helping to find solutions to the problems.

“I learned you have to be unreasonable to get unreasonable results. You can't look for reason among such large issues,” he said.

“We were dealing with major systemic issues there.”

In Peru, he founded a non-governmental organization, Castillo Fuerte, which started educational programs among at-risk youth.

This involved a “great deal of organizing with local stakeholders and partner NGOs, Gale said.

Gale's family lived among the poor in Lima, spoke their language, ate the same type of food and played soccer with them.

“My daughter spent time with me on the streets of Lima,” he said of Katharina, who is now 11. “She still runs ideas by me about ways to help.”

After the family's return from Lima, Gale served a brief stint as executive director of Lutheran Church Charities in Illinois, “but my passions lie with direct service to the poor.” That's why Gale accepted the position at Just Neighbors here in Fort Wayne.

“One of my favorite things about this job is that my office is on the same property with the house where our families stay,” he said. Gale and his staff provide a support network for the 42 residents currently housed at Just Neighbors.

Once again he is using the skills he honed in Gary, Philadelphia and Lima, Peru.

Just Neighbors, founded in 1999, as the Interfaith Homeless Network, represents hope for the homeless families it serves, Gale said.

“We keep father, mother and children together under one roof,” he said.

Before Just Neighbors opened its complex on East State Street in 2009, congregations around the city housed families at their churches for a week at a time.

The church and its neighbors, as well as service providers would provide meals, recreational programs and case management for the families. While the model was a good first step, it was not as helpful to families as a permanent location.

Now, with their complex that includes the Just Neighbors office and a residence with 10 bedrooms, a common kitchen, living and dining area, families do not have to move every week. School-age children living at Just Neighbors attend the Fort Wayne schools. Younger children have daycare allowing their parents to work, look for a job, receive job training and other services such as budget counseling, and search for permanent or transitional housing.

Churches still help by providing meals and other assistance at the Just Neighbors house.

While homelessness and unemployment can go hand-in-hand, Gale said the greatest problem for many homeless families is underemployment. Underemployment means they do not make enough money to cover the basic expenses of a home and family. He said that among the families served by Just Neighbors, almost three-quarters are employed.

In 2017, Just Neighbors served 82 families that included 106 adults and 147 children.

The organization has an annual budget of about $600,000. During their stay at Just Neighbors, families complete a needs assessment, and meet regularly with case managers to maintain accountability, track progress and set goals for their family's future. “While theoretically there is not a max length of stay, in practice we average 45 days for length of stay as an emergency shelter,” Gale said.

Nancy McCammon-Hansen, Just Neighbors marketing and development director, said Gale brings a lot of energy and a great sense of humor to his work. That sense of humor “is important when working with populations in crisis.”

Gale, she said, “has done a great job in getting connected with the community in the short time that he has been here.”

His connection with the community has given him a sense of promise for the future of the homeless families served by Just Neighbors. “Our future leaders of Fort Wayne will come from this program,” he said. “They have a unique perspective and understanding of the world.”

And, he added, because of Just Neighbors, the homeless families served have “a learned experience of having received compassion.”