Shalom Community Center. Photo by John Woodcock

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from a press release from Beacon. It has been edited for clarity and style.

In January 2000, the basement of the First United Methodist Church opened to people without homes. Guests were offered coffee, a few newspapers, a single telephone, and daytime shelter. The space was named “Shalom,” which means “welcome” and “peace be upon you.”

Twenty years later, that space has grown into one of the largest social service agencies in south-central Indiana, with 45 employees and six major programs.

Shalom Community Center, now located at 620 S. Walnut, has grown and now provides hunger relief, daytime shelter, life essentials like laundry and mail services, social services, financial support, and more. Phil’s Kitchen, located at Shalom, has provided 1.2 million free meals.

A Friend’s Place—formerly Martha’s House—is Bloomington’s overnight emergency shelter, which offers 50 beds and in 2019 provided 14,000 nights of shelter. Additionally, the Crawford Homes apartment complex offers 110 units of permanent supportive housing for adults and children who have struggled with long-term homelessness due to disabilities. The Rapid Rehousing program also helps working families move out of shelters and back into homes.

Together, these programs house or prevent homelessness for more than 700 people each year. Now, the programs will be recognized under a new name: Beacon.

“The spark [of these programs] has grown into a beacon of hope and hospitality in Bloomington, and so the name ‘Beacon’ was chosen to represent this organization and its many programs,” said the organization in a press release.

The Shalom Center, Friend’s Place, Rapid Rehousing, Phil’s Kitchen, Street Outreach, Crawford Homes, and the Monroe County Isolation Shelter and COVID-19 Homeless Prevention Project are all included under this new moniker.

“Our capacity to care has grown so significantly that we needed a new way to express that,” says executive director Rev. Forrest Gilmore. “Once a day center providing basic needs, now we’ve added so much more to help people not only survive but get back home. In addition to emergency supports, Beacon provides solutions for people in poverty. All our efforts work together to be the light that guides you home.”

“I like it,” says Kenny Garrison, who used to receive services at Shalom and now returns to volunteer in a variety of capacities. “‘Beacon’ means hope. And that’s a way home.”

The national health and economic crises caused by COVID-19 have directly affected the struggling poor of south-central Indiana. Those who wish to support the work of Beacon are encouraged to visit and attend their annual (and, this year, virtual) gala event on Tuesday, October 27.