by KRISTEN SENZ
The words, written large, on a cardboard sign: “Homeless. 2 kids. Anything helps,” are often the only outward evidence of Bloomington’s youngest homeless population.
For families without stable housing, finding shelter long enough to make ends meet often means splitting up, with some children entering foster care unnecessarily. But in Bloomington, New Hope for Families, an emergency shelter and childcare center, has worked to change that, keeping families together and helping more than 80% of those it serves move into permanent housing within three months.
Having operated from a row of houses on the Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital property for nearly a decade, the nonprofit organization is now on the verge of its next chapter as it breaks ground on new facilities, creating expanded capacity that its leaders say is sorely needed.
“It’s unfortunate that we need this capacity,” says Andy Allard, New Hope’s board chairman, “but I’m just glad that we’ll be able to find a way to meet as many needs as we can out there.”
What is now an empty parking lot at the northwest corner of South Morton Street and Patterson Drive will soon be home to The Roof, a shelter for people experiencing homelessness with three connected units that will each house four families. The new facilities will increase New Hope’s capacity from seven to 12 families.
Each family will have a secure room and private bathroom. Plans include a separate living space for a site supervisor and shared spaces in each unit for cooking, dining, laundry, meetings, and quiet study.
“We wanted these spaces to be welcoming and warm, and we wanted them to feel residential, not institutional,” says New Hope Executive Director Emily Pike.
New Hope’s nationally accredited childcare center, The Nest, will be on the same property. That building will house classroom space for 48 children, from infants to preschoolers, as well as a conference room, multipurpose room, a commercial kitchen, and administrative offices. Pike estimates that the kitchen will serve nearly 30,000 meals per year, tripling current capacity.
Half the childcare slots will be reserved for children directly affected by homelessness; the rest will be available to the public. Along with helping New Hope generate revenue, creating a mixed early education cohort furthers its mission of raising awareness and reducing stigma.
New Hope has raised 60 percent of the $5.7 million project cost, including more than $600,000 from its board and support from Federal Home Loan Bank, Jackson County Bank, Smithville Charitable Trust, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, local record label Secretly Canadian, Bloomington Township, and the Bloomington Board of Realtors.
“Once people start seeing progress and hearing more about us, I think we’ll be able to raise enough to pay for the whole project in short order,” says Allard. “This is a project that’s destined for our community and will help so many families in need.”
Designed by Matheu Architects of Bloomington, the buildings will be constructed by Indianapolis-based Gilliatte General Contractors. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the project on April 12. The Roof is expected to open in December while Nest classrooms are scheduled to open in January 2022.