by CARMEN SIERING
The coming year is full of significant milestones for Shalom Community Center, a resource agency for those experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness, and for its executive director, Forrest Gilmore. Gilmore started as assistant director of Shalom in January 2010. A year later, on April 1, 2011—“Make of that what you will,” he says with a laugh—Gilmore was named executive director.
Shalom began as a partnership between a local emergency shelter and First United Methodist Church a decade before Gilmore came on board, in January 2000. It started simply, offering a warm room and a phone for those needing a place to get off the street. By April, the program had expanded to include breakfast, laundry facilities, a computer center, and restrooms. Programming continued to grow, especially when Shalom received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in September 2002. In August 2010, Shalom moved to its current location at 620 S. Walnut.
With that move, Gilmore says, “We went from a day shelter to a comprehensive homeless service and housing provider.”
Housing is provided at Crawford Homes, which offers 110 apartments to disabled, chronically homeless individuals and families in three locations throughout the community. Part of Shalom’s mission is to help individuals and families secure housing and help them stay in the homes they have secured.
“Last year, Shalom helped house or prevent homelessness for 697 people,” Gilmore says. “A lot of people don’t realize how effective we are—how many people we move into housing and how many people we help stay in housing.”
In fact, Gilmore says, the bulk of Shalom’s annual budget, which has grown substantially over the past decade—from $330,000 to more than $2 million for 2020—goes toward keeping people in their homes.
There are still challenges ahead.
“The most important thing for us in 2020 is that this is the year we make it or break it for A Friend’s Place [the overnight shelter formerly known as Martha’s House],” Gilmore says. “In 2021, it will either be an essential part of our community’s services or it will have to shut down. In all of its names, it is the longest-running homeless shelter in our community and yet it has always struggled. This is the time to make sure it shines.”
For more information on anniversary events throughout the year, visit Shalom Community Center on Facebook or shalomcommunitycenter.org.