By STEVEN PENN
DANVILLE — Dr. Mike Hartley from Family Promise of Hendricks County gave an update on the homeless initiative at this week’s Hendricks County Commissioners’ meeting.
Hartley said his reason for attending the meeting is to make sure the commissioners are aware of the initiative that concerns homeless families in Hendricks County.
“About two years ago now, a group of concerned individuals from many different backgrounds, started meeting with the same questions of ‘Is there a need in Hendricks County, a homeless need? Is there an issue here that needs to be addressed and if so, what can we do about it?’” he said. “We had no background in terms of homelessness, we were just concerned individuals.”
Hartley said in the beginning there were only a handful of people involved.
“There were about six to eight of us that started as smaller groups, and then ultimately coalesced into one larger group,” he said. “We started meeting regularly, calling ourselves the Homeless Coalition of Hendricks County.”
He said after a 2012 survey produced results indicating there were about 135 homeless children and 270 homeless families in the county, the group knew there needed to be a plan of action.
“We changed our name from the Hendricks County Homeless Coalition to Family Promise of Hendricks County,” he said. “We have incorporated, we have a board, and we have a pending 501©3 status. We are moving forward, this will happen and so I wanted to just make sure you were aware of the name.”
He said the program the initiative will follow has been successful at the national level.
“We will be the fifth affiliate within the state of Indiana and one of the first county-wide programs, with Marion being the other,” Hartley said. “The program works very successfully on many fronts, but the national data suggests that 80 percent of guests, or homeless families that go through this program are still in housing a year out from going through the program.”
He said there are several ways the program is effective.
“We use existing structures within the county that keeps costs very low compared to building or maintaining existing structures,” he said. “It has multiple components, the most important of which are that there will be host congregations or groups within the county that house the families one week per quarter, or on average four times per year. Any given week there will be only about 13 to 15 individuals, three to four families, going through this program. All of them will be in the same place within the county.”
He then went over how a typical week would play out.
“They will be in the same host congregation within that week,” he said. “During the evening they will stay in that facility and that host congregation will house them for that week. During the day, a van will transport them to a day center where they will receive a lot of case management. So much of homelessness is procrastination and this allows us to tackle that head on and really start to address those issues. During the day the kids will go to school, when school’s in session and then in the evening the families are carted back to that host congregation.”
Hartley said the strength of the program lies within the interactions the homeless families will receive.
“They don’t come back to an empty church,” he said. “They come back to volunteers from the congregation preparing dinner for them. (They are) ready to sit and talk with them, ask them about their day, and help with homework with the kids. Somebody stays over with them to make sure that everybody is safe, then in the morning, other volunteers come in and provide breakfast. These families, who up until this point have felt like social pariahs, suddenly realize that they’re human just like the rest of us. That’s how we aim to break the cycle rather than just sustain the same process over and over again.”
He said currently, they have six of the 13 necessary host congregations and are planning for the day center to be in Camby at the Fairfield Friends Meeting historic building.
Looking ahead, Hartley said the plan is to get more host congregations and then start hiring full-time and part-time employees.
“Once we have that day center, and our 13 host congregations — or at least 10 to 11 — we will look toward hiring a full-time executive director, along with some part-time executive directors,” he said. “We have had a fundraising event, a golf outing at Deer Creek, which was very successful. You’ll be hearing more about this effort in the upcoming months.”
Hartley said he feels as the momentum continues to grow, more people will step up and donate time, money, or equipment that is necessary.
Commission President Phyllis Palmer said she appreciated Hartley taking the time to bring the commissioners up to speed.
“It sounds wonderful and I appreciate the opportunity, myself, to learn more,” she said.
Palmer added that she liked the name change.
“I like changing the name to Family Promise, what you’re offering does give them hope and it gives them an opportunity to improve and have a better situation,” she said.
For more information, visit the website at www.familypromiseofhendrickscounty.org or call 296-3742.