by RODNEY MARGISON
Nearly 21 years ago, Shalom Community Center opened in the basement of First United Methodist Church to provide services to those experiencing homelessness in Bloomington. The organization offered coffee, newspapers, a single telephone, and a daytime shelter. Since then, Shalom has grown into one of the largest social service agencies in south-central Indiana, with 45 employees and six major programs serving more than 700 people each year. It now also has a new name—Beacon.
“A name tells a story,” Executive Director Forrest Gilmore explains, and Beacon is no different. “Shalom Community Center tells the story of one of our life-saving programs,” he says. “Beacon tells the story of all we offer.”
And while the services the organization provides won’t change, Gilmore says having one name to encompass all six of the organization’s major programs makes delivering the message easier. “The biggest change with the new name,” he says, “will be how we share all that we do with the community. We offer so many solutions for people in poverty and we want the community to know.”
In addition to these six programs, the Beacon moniker also encompasses the Monroe County Isolation Shelter and COVID-19 Homeless Prevention Project, launched in 2020 to address the novel coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the homeless community.
The six major programs are:
• Shalom Community Center, 620 S. Walnut, which provides hunger relief, daytime shelter, laundry and mail services, social services, financial support, and more.
• Phil’s Kitchen, located at Shalom, which has provided 1.2 million free meals to those experiencing poverty in the community.
• Friend’s Place (formerly Martha’s House), an overnight emergency shelter that offers 50 beds and in 2019 provided 14,000 nights of shelter.
• Crawford Homes apartments, which provides 110 units of permanent supportive housing for adults and children struggling with long-term homelessness due to disabilities.
• Rapid Re-Housing, which helps working families move out of shelters and into homes.
• Street Outreach, through which caseworkers walk the streets of Bloomington seven days a week, engaging with and providing support for people experiencing street homelessness.
“We all have had times when we were lost and alone,” says Gilmore. “When the storm of poverty—and especially hunger and homelessness—strikes and people need a light of hope, we’re there offering a way back home.”
For more information, visit beaconinc.org.