AVON — The Hendricks County Homeless Coalition, the idea for which started in 2010, is ready to present its plan for combating its namesake issue at an upcoming meeting, and all in the community are invited.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at Avon Christian Church, 7236 E. C.R. 100 S. Claas Ehlers, director of affiliate service for Family Promise, will present his organization's religious-based approach for helping homeless families.
"This will be a chance for the community to come and get detailed information about how this program will look, function, and plan to achieve its goals," said Dr. Mike Hartley, who serves on the homeless coalition's executive committee.
The idea behind Family Promise's Interfaith Hospitality Network is that a volunteer organization - most likely a church - hosts a homeless family for a week once per quarter. During the day that family is transported to needed resources like schools or job centers.
Hartley estimates they need at least 13 committed congregations to effectively run the program.
"We plan on trying to get people to commit or say whether they're interested in being involved, so we have an idea on who's going to participate," he said. "The point isn't to pin people to the wall, but to move forward."
He added that there are no restrictions on which denominations or even religions can participate.
"The whole point of this is to embrace these homeless families as the humans they are and not the social outcasts they think they've become," Hartley said. "The great thing about this model is it allows the community to get involved."
He also notes that most churches and other places of worship tend to sit empty most of the week.
"That's another great thing about this model - it uses existing structures rather than forcing us to raise funds to build new ones that are otherwise hard to support," Hartley said.
The coalition still has to overcome the notion that homelessness is something relegated to Indianapolis in these parts. This spring, Hendricks County schools reported 134 students as having no residence. Connect 2 Help statistics showed that of the almost 3,000 county residents who called them last year seeking help, about 31 percent of it was for housing or utility assistance.
Hendricks County also has 21 food pantries, many of which are seeing increased demand.
"We tend to be an affluent county," Hartley said. "I don't think anyone would presume there's no homelessness here, but they don't really know anyone (in that situation). Plus they have their own worries, so it's difficult to put at the top of your priority list. Hopefully, this will start the education of this effort and how people can get involved."
Hartley is confident the Family Promise program, if enacted here, will yield positive results. It already has in other parts of the country. With more than 150,000 volunteers in 5,500 congregations nationally, about 80 percent of the participating homeless are still in permanent housing a year after completing the program.
"Another great thing about this program is that it allows us to continue to support them," Hartley said. "We can develop other programs on top of this one to continue facilitating these families to where they really feel self-sufficient. It truly aims to break the cycle of homelessness rather than institutionalizing it."
Those who can't attend the meeting but are still interested in participating may e-mail to email@example.com for more information.