Economy changes face of homeless

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

Do we have homeless people in Southeastern Indiana?

Consider this. The Heart House near Aurora, which serves a five-county area of Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio, Switzerland, and Franklin counties, has served a total of 1500 homeless people in the past eight years.

Craig Beckley, the director at Heart House, encourages people in the community to “come visit the shelter.” He further noted that “there is a misconception as to who homeless people are and what they look like. The majority of homeless people look just like anyone else,” he told The Versailles Republican.

Heart House is a 60-bed facility that is currently serving 60-plus people. The facility does more than house a homeless person. “It is a place to get healed and get life back together,” noted Beckley. Two out of three people that are employable get jobs while at the Heart House. They have at least a 68% success rate, which is so high because Beckley says they give them an extended time to get on their feet. The Heart House is a safety valve for families when adult children have to move back home and in with parents.

Beckley also provided the 2010 Point in Time Count of Hoosiers experiencing homelessness from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority or the IHCDA.

According to Beckley, the report is one date in January that they use to try to count all the homeless in the state. On the night of January 27, 2010, in continuum care region 13, which includes the counties of Ripley, Dearborn, Switzerland, Jefferson, Scott, Washington, Orange, Clark, Crawford, and Harrison, there were approximately 339 people experiencing homelessness.

The break down is as follows:
• 214 households
• 149 single adults
• 46% male
• 54% female
• 65 families
• 116 children in those families
• 13% of single adults were chronically homeless, that is, having been homeless for more than a year or experienced three episodes of homelessness in the past four years and, having a disabling condition.
• 39% of single adults and adults in families reported suffering from either a physical or behavioral health condition.
• 39% of children were under the age of 6.
• 6.7% of single adults and adults in families reported being veterans.
• 61 households or 165 were receiving HPRP support.

Apparently we do have homeless people in Indiana and even closer to home in Ripley and surrounding counties. Places like Heart House are doing viable work to change those statistics in our area.

Case Manager at Heart House, Kris Hall, provided The Versailles Republican with several success stories because of the involvement with the Heart House.

Here are a couple success stories she shared.

1. A mom with two children, ages 7 months and 2 years; her husband left her. When she arrived at Heart House, she had low self-esteem and no belief in her own abilities. Yet, today, after much patience and encouragement, she is on her own, with a job she enjoys. She spent a year at Heart House and has now been gainfully employed for over two years.

2. A single man. He had faced many failures in his life due to alcoholism. During his year-long stay at Heart House he was helped to file for disability, and get on a liver transplant list. Today, he is living on his own, his health is stable, and he even volunteers at Heart House and sits on the board of directors.

3. A businessman. When he came to Heart House he had been a businessman with a college degree and a good job. However, he was at that time $80,000 in debt due to gambling issues. He had lost his home, his wife, and his job. Now he is on his own, has a good-paying job again, and is working on his relationship with his wife.

Hall stated that if they see one success story a year, it’s worth it. She maintains that change has to happen for anyone to better themselves. She truly believes that the Heart House is that “lifeline” to change and might possibly be the “last hope” for some people.
Living at the Heart House is a way for those who are down on their luck to be healed, get life back together and be productive citizens in the community.

Heart House is located on US 50 west of Aurora in Dearborn County. You are invited to stop by the facility and check it out.

The Heart House is much more than a "homeless shelter". It is a place lives are turned around, people given hope, and choices made providing new opportunities for people who have fallen on hard times.