[Hpn] Shelter searches for city's homeless
Morgan W. Brown
Mon, 09 Jul 2001 13:56:42 -0400
Sunday, July 08, 2001
Indianapolis Star <http://www.indystar.com>
Shelter searches for city's homeless
By Celeste Williams
July 08, 2001
Someone has been camping in this concrete-and-asphalt woods. Purple chicory
lines a foot-worn trail. At the mouth of the path, bricks are placed in a
haphazard circle that holds the charred remains of a fire. For warmth? For
The spire of a Downtown skyscraper can be seen from this urban campsite.
Traffic sounds spill over its rough edges, like echoes from another world.
Anthony Ratcliffe and Mark Robinson, backpacks filled with personal hygiene
kits and small portions of nonperishable food, are familiar with this place.
It is midmorning, but the inhabitants are already gone for the day.
Ratcliffe, 35, and Robinson, 43, are AmeriCorps workers, assigned to the
Horizon House Street Outreach team. About a dozen workers -- some on
bicycles -- traverse the camps and other obscure places tucked into the
folds of the city's fabric to offer helping hands to the more than 3,000
homeless people in Indianapolis.
In three hours one morning, the on-foot pair will peer under Eastside
bridges, visit a White Castle restaurant, the bus station and Pan American
Plaza, walk along Washington Street Downtown, then end up at the Salvation
Army on East Michigan Street, where they'll help serve lunch to a large
group of homeless men.
The goal is to be ambassadors for service, said Lora Johnson, the team's
While many homeless people work daily, they might never have enough money to
make it back from the edge of the cliff. And, according to a study done for
the U.S. Conference of Mayors last year, more than a third of the homeless
are now families -- largely women with children whose lives are a cycle of
shelters and borrowed sofas.
Horizon House, a day shelter program, has itself been homeless for longer
than two years. A new building, now being completed at 1033 E. Washington
St., might open in about two weeks.
The day shelter was cast adrift in 1998 after leaving its cramped quarters
in borrowed space several blocks east of its new location. What followed
were lessons in politics and perception, as some in City Hall criticized
efforts to move shelters and other help agencies too close to a booming
When the new 21,000-square-foot facility opens, it will offer services from
showers and medical care to employment and housing assistance and mental
health counseling. It will even offer an address and a phone for those who
have none but need them to return to life -- on the inside.
Bobby Pyle was a regular at Horizon House's former location. He misses it,
even though he says it's not likely he will give up the streets any time
soon. Tourists and shoppers walk by and look past and through him, as if he
were a ghost. It doesn't seem to ruffle the invisible man.
Ratcliffe and Robinson recognize him, though, and call out hearty greetings.
They call Pyle "the Mayor" because he seems to know everyone -- at least
everyone homeless who frequents the streets.
Pyle, gaunt and toothless in the front but with a neat, self-clipped haircut
and long but trimmed goatee, is not your stereotypical homeless guy. Late
this morning, Pyle sits on a bench outside Circle Centre. He says he doesn't
panhandle. But the restaurateurs know him and give him a plate of food
occasionally that otherwise would be destined for the trash bin.
It's an OK life, said the Indianapolis native. But look at his shoes and you
know that this man has some mileage for a 40-year-old. The rubber heels have
that off-kilter look, and their high-tops have the kind of malignant grime
no scrubbing would cure.
"They don't have anything to lose, because they have already lost
everything," Johnson said. "We are their family. For some, this is as good
as it is going to get."
Contact with the outreach team is just a beginning.
Ask Ratcliffe. He lived on the streets for a time after being released from
prison. "I stayed in abandoned houses, under bridges, in the park . . . in
the stairwells at Market Square Arena." He said he was helped by older men,
who taught him how to find shelters, clothing, food.
So when Ratcliffe tells homeless people he knows their situation, he does.
He came to the team a year ago when he saw a flier on a bulletin board of a
transitional housing program Downtown. "I just want to give back," Ratcliffe
said, "to give back to the people who are still out here."
Contact Celeste Williams at 1-317-444-6367 or via e-mail at
Leader of Horizon House describes program, goals
John Hay, Jr., Horizon House executive director, explains its mission.
Q: What were the origins of the street outreach team?
A: National research shows that street outreach is a critical factor to
knowing and building trust with persons who are homeless, as well as
bringing needed services to them.
Q: Why does the team use AmeriCorps workers?
A: Horizon House receives a grant from the Corporation for National Service
to train and deploy AmeriCorps members in this manner.
Q: Explain the use of the word "neighbors" to describe homeless people.
A: Folks often use unintentional or intentional disparaging language to
refer to a person without a home. If semantics are important - and I believe
they are - then "neighbor" challenges us to be a neighbor to another
neighbor, whether housed or homeless.
Q: How was the new Horizon House build and paid for?
A: We are so grateful for the support of foundations and organizations that
have helped us build this 21,000-square-foot facility virtually debt-free.
For $100, a brick can be purchased to be engraved with the name of a
neighbor who died while homeless. These bricks will be placed in a walkway
at the main entrance at our grand opening.
Q: What will the new Horizon House do that the old one could not?
A: Our new hospitality area is much larger, with a "day room," laundry,
kitchen, restroom with showers, phones, mail service.
We have added a family room to work with homeless neighbors as families.
(Services) will include a larger area for employment services, which
Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana will oversee. Midtown Community
Mental Health Center will locate eight staff in our facility to offer mental
health and substance abuse counseling. And both legal and medical services
areas have been developed.
For more information on Horizon House, call 1-317-423-8909, or visit its Web
site at www.horizonhouse.cc.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
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those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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