In April of 2013 the Warsaw Board of Zoning Appeals approved a petition for a homeless shelter at 1520 E. Winona Ave. in the former Ken Anderson Films Building (see related).
Today, the shelter is nearing completion and is set to this month. In honor of the opening, an open house event will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at the shelter and the public is invited to attend to see the newly remodeled building.
According to Fellowship Missions Director Eric Lane, the shelter will service men, women and children and will feature up to 56 beds.
Lane said both of Fellowship’s current men’s and women’s shelters are at full occupancy with all 30 beds being used. In winter months, those numbers rise and, when need surpasses availability, Lane noted individuals are sent to larger shelters in cities such as South Bend and Fort Wayne.
With the donation of the new Winona Avenue building and supplies, Lane noted more individuals will be able to be assisted with lower stresses to occupants and volunteers. The new shelter’s thoughtful design optimizes both safety and functionality for its residents and volunteers.
Men and women will be housed in separate dorms and will need to be “buzzed in” to their respective living quarters. In addition, the building is entirely level, allowing for residents with handicaps to easily navigate their surroundings without needing expensive lifts or space-consuming ramps.
Living rooms will be furnished for both men and women with a common cafeteria for not only sharing meals, but fellowship and programming. Lane said the major goal is not to simply house individuals, but to rehabilitate them by assisting them with programming designed to get them back onto their feet and into the world. Programming includes career counseling, mental counseling, nutritional counseling, financial counseling and even lessons in driving.
Lane noted each person is treated as a case-by-case situation and programming and fellowship is curtailed to each unique individual and his or her needs. Residents are offered a 14-day emergency stay program for those in a temporary bind, as well as self-sufficiency programs for those needing longer term assistance.
Children are a focus of the new shelter and have been carefully planned for. Unlike the current women’s shelter, a separate living room has been set aside for women with children. There is also a kid’s play area and study room in the shelter and the goal is to have a fenced in back yard area complete with playground equipment.
A total of 79 kids under 14 years old were sheltered last year by Fellowship Missions, which is a notable increase from the 56 children housed the year before.
Labor for the new shelter will be handled in-house and residents will be assigned specific cleaning and household maintenance responsibilities. From cleaning dorms, mowing the lawn to preparing meals, Lane stressed each resident will be held responsible for their own space and will be expected to follow shelter rules.
“It’s been a long process getting where we are,” explained Lane. “I feel like we are where God has positioned us. The community has been wonderful. Our volunteers have given over 500 volunteer hours. Everything we’ve prayed about is coming together. It has all been amazing.”
The final touches are now being made and the final dollars of the nearly $400,000 project are also being raised. Though the building itself is nearly complete, Lane noted the shelter is still needing to raise a total of $140,000 necessary to make the project completely debt free at its opening. Lane is seeking the help of community members and business leaders willing to donate time, money or resources to the shelter.