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Shalom Center works to get homeless of Bloomington a roof over their heads



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Shalom Community Center, located on Walnut Street, provides resources for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. The center presented an annual report on Thursday reviewing initiatives such as its housing-first program. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

A single number, 333, was displayed on the board.

Forrest Gilmore, executive director of the Shalom Center, said this is the number of homeless people on Bloomington streets each day.

“They’re living on the streets, in cars, in tents, in the woods,” he said. “They are among us, around us, just trying to survive.”

The gathering was part of Home for All, the Shalom Community Center’s annual “state of the union” on the homelessness problem in Bloomington at the Fountain Square Ballroom on Thursday evening.

Gilmore said the event was a progress report and an opportunity to get the community involved in efforts to reduce homelessness.

“Shalom is a local organization, working on a local problem, with our neighbors and for our neighbors,” he said.

Gilmore said one major change the center has undergone this year is its switch to a housing-first model. Instead of preparing people to find housing, he said the center is trying to get as many people into housing first and then supporting them while they are in housing.

“It’s a shift from managing homelessness to ending homelessness,” he said.

Gilmore said the center’s efforts this year moved 110 households into permanent homes. Forty-six of these households were families with children.

This year was also the first full year the center managed the Friend’s Place shelter, which is an emergency shelter, once known as Martha’s House, that includes 40 beds.

Gilmore said the shelter housed 211 homeless people in the past year. Now, 62 percent of them have moved out of the shelter and into permanent housing.

He said the numbers reflect efforts to get people into housing quickly.

Rapid rehousing coordinator Amy Harrison said Thursday's event was meant to shed a light on efforts to work slowly toward the center’s goal of quashing all homelessness in Bloomington by 2020.

“We want to let people know that this problem exists and that there are people working to solve it and that everyone in the community can contribute,” she said.

As people sat at their tables, they held plastic cups of colorful drinks in one hand and green donation slips in the other.

On the slips were dollar amounts: $50 for hot meals for five people for a week, $84 for shelter for one person for one week and $27,071 for to cover all of a homeless person’s needs for a year.

Mikayla Stocks, Shalom Center intern and IU master’s student, said community donations, no matter how small, are what make the efforts of the center possible. 

She said while the center already has strong support from the community, she wants to shed more of a light on Bloomington’s homelessness problem.

“We want to connect the community with marginalized populations and show them what they face and the problems we need to be paying attention to,” she said.

Gilmore said increased community support is especially important as chronic homelessness has increased by 29 percent in Bloomington in the last 10 years. 

He said he believes there have been 15,174 homeless people in Bloomington between 2000 and 2015.

“It’s a problem,” he said. “It’s growing, but thankfully it’s not exploding.”

He said these numbers show Bloomington must take responsibility for the problem rather than point fingers at neighboring cities or counties.He said a big problem can slowly become manageable if all hands are on deck.

“We have to stop blaming people coming from out of town and recognizing that our community has an issue,” he said. “It has a challenge. This is our problem.”

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