July 6, 2007

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Addressing homelessness in Indiana

Chris and Brittney never expected to find themselves homeless.

However, when Chris lost his factory job in Bloomington, they quickly fell behind in their bills and were evicted from their apartment. They made several attempts to move in with family members with their new baby, Gracie, but could not find a satisfactory arrangement.

With nowhere else to turn, Chris, 19, Brittney, 21, and Gracie, 18 months, arrived at the Shalom Center, a day center for homeless individuals and families in Bloomington, the town where both Chris and Brittney were raised.

A staff member at Shalom Center worked with the family to locate a suitable place to live and found Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis. There is no family shelter in Bloomington, and Chris and Brittney insisted that the family not be separated.

At the beginning of May, the family moved into Holy Family Shelter, an emergency shelter and program of Catholic Charities for families, located on the campus of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish just south of downtown Indianapolis.

Brittney said that upon entering the program, she and Chris wanted to feel sorry for themselves but the staff would not let them. The Holy Family Shelter staff began immediately to help the couple identify their goals and the skills necessary to prevent homelessness in the future.

Chris and Brittney are now expecting a second child in September and are working toward a transition to one of Holy Family Services nine affordable apartments.

Chris is working 50 to 55 hours per week at two jobs, and hopes to earn his GED and receive some skilled job training in order to provide a secure future for his family. Brittney hopes to return to Ivy Tech to reach her career goals.

Although Chris and Brittney are younger than most married couples that find their way to Holy Family Shelter, they are fairly typical of the temporary residents.

Currently, homeless families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, and the space to accommodate families is decreasing. Over the past six years, 44 shelter programs have closed in the state of Indiana. More alarming is the fact that 30 of these programs closed in just the past three years.

Catholic Charities provides the shelter here in Indianapolis and the Bethany House in Terre Haute to provide a safe haven for families where they can begin to plan for a future rich with promise.

Like Chris and Brittney, no one ever expects to be homeless, but when circumstances leave a family with no place to live, we must provide a place.

Bloomington does not have a shelter for families, nor do most cities and towns in our state. We have a growing problem and a shrinking number of available beds.

One way that Catholic Charities is responding to this need is by relocating and expanding Holy Family Shelter. The current facility was originally built as a convent for nuns and has functioned as a shelter for 21 years, but the time has come to provide a more suitable environment.

As part of the current Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future capital campaign, we are currently working to raise the necessary funds to ensure that families like Chris and Brittney have a place to call home.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.) †

Local site Links: