Open house introduces new emergency shelter to community



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Dick Rose and Alan Backler, far left and far right and Board Members at the Shalom Community Center, give a tour of Friend's Place shelter during the Shalom Community Center open house hosted to introduce the shelter to the public Sunday afternoon. Geoff McKim, center-left and member of the Monroe County Council, and Jean Capler, center-right and advocate for transgender rights in the Shalom Community Center, are both residents who hope that the transition to the new shelter will help shelter and rehabilitate those looking for residence in the future, they say. Scott Tenefrancia Buy Photos

Kimala Boyd has been staying at Friend’s Place since February. After four months, she and her son will move to an apartment in June.

As of January 2015, nearly 6,000 homeless individuals lived across Indiana, according to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Boyd and her son are two of nearly 350 who live in Monroe County.

An open house Sunday afternoon introduced the new emergency shelter Friend’s Place to the surrounding community, which kicked off a $200,000 matching campaign.

Martha’s House, Inc. was dissolved last June after losing its 501(c)(3) status, which put Martha’s House — the only nearby year-round, nonreligious, emergency shelter for homeless adults — at risk.

Support and funding from the government, nonprofit agencies and concerned citizens kept the shelter open, according to a press release. Shalom Community Center, Inc. then accepted management of Martha’s House in January, renaming the shelter Friend’s Place.

The open house Sunday afternoon kicked off the public phase of a matching campaign, with a goal of raising $200,000 by Dec. 31, according to the release. Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association will then match up to $200,000.

Though $80,000 has already been raised, another $120,000 is needed, according to the release. To help raise the additional $120,000, Shalom Community Center is sponsoring an adopt-a-bed program.

It costs $12 per bed per night, according to the release. Because of the matching grant, a donor can therefore adopt a bed for a week for 
$42, a bed for 2 weeks for $84, a bed for a month for $182, all the beds for a night for $240, all the beds for a week for $1,680 or the entire shelter for a month for $7,300.

“I believe, and I think this community believes, that anyone could go homeless, and that we need a place where people can find the safety and security that they need until they get back on their feet,” said Forrest Gilmore, executive director of Shalom Community Center. “So I think this shelter says something about what this 
community believes in and stands for.”

The $200,000 goal will fully fund the shelter through 2019, according to the release. During that time, Shalom Community Center will focus on building its annual budget in order to keep the shelter open past 2019. A new development director will help the center grow its donor base and secure long-term funding.

“But our ability to keep this open into the future will really depend on the community saying, ‘Yes, I want this. Yes, this is important. Yes, we need this, and I’m willing to support it with my money,’” 
Gilmore said.

Though Bloomington is home to other emergency shelters, including Backstreet Missions, New Hope Family Shelter and Interfaith Winter Shelter, Gilmore said Friend’s Place’s history sets it apart.

“It’s been a huge part of providing shelter for people for decades now,” he said. “It really has been a solid foundation in the 
community.”

Shalom Community Center has already improved the shelter, Gilmore said, expanding from 36 to 40 beds. The center has also grown from 60 percent to 100 percent occupancy, making the shelter more accessible to transgender guests and completing some needed repairs.

“(The shelter) helps take that hard burden off to where you’ve got time to think about going out and finding something and getting yourself together,” Boyd said. “The biggest thing is to get out of the weather, get out of the rain, get out of the woods. I know people living in the woods right now.”

Nikki Reising, Friend’s Place program manager, said she chose 
the name Friend’s Place to help the shelter guests avoid the stigma of 
homelessness.

“I felt like Martha’s House was a good name in the fact that people could just say, ‘Oh, I’m 
going to Martha’s House,’ like they were going to a friend named Martha’s house,” she said. “So I decided, OK, let’s play off of that. They can just say, 
‘Oh, I’m going to a friend’s place. And it doesn’t sound like they’re going to a 
shelter.”

Gilmore said the name allows guests to open up to their experiences only if they want to do so.

“So whenever someone stays there, they don’t have to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m 
staying at a homeless shelter or whatever,” he said. “They can say, ‘I’m staying at a friend’s place.’”

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Attendees eat and conversate on the side patio of Friend's Place shelter during the Shalom Community Center open house hosted to introduce the shelter to the public Sunday afternoon. Scott Tenefrancia Buy Photos

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