Heart House: Partner with a Big Heart

Mediaon June 5th, 2017Comments Off on Heart House: Partner with a Big Heart

Heart House: Partner with a Big Heart“Would you like to see the strange butterfly outside our door?” I looked up from my phone, startled by the voice that broke the silence in the quiet, empty front office of Heart House.  A young woman looked down at me, her deep blue eyes twinkling with friendship and curiosity. “I thought you might be bored,” she said as she studied my face, waiting to see if I would return her smile. She wore frayed denim shorts and a bright yellow t-shirt and had spiked brown hair. On her wrist was a fascinating array of colorful bracelets. A pink smartphone peeked out of the back pocket of her shorts. Grateful for the company I smiled back at her, my heart warming at this friendly overture. As I scrambled to my feet and followed her to the door, I furtively studied my new friend. She looked about 25 years old. My gaze traveled to her heavy work boots.  I wondered if she worked in a warehouse. And then I heard my breath catch as my eyes fell on the sinister black device that was fastened to her left foot.  The ankle monitor revealed a troubling truth – my charming friend Sylvia was on house-arrest.

Heart House: Partner with a Big HeartNestled among the rolling hills of Aurora, Indiana, Heart House Inc., a partner agency of the Freestore Foodbank, is the largest homeless shelter south of Indianapolis. It has been in operation for over 15 years, providing temporary shelter and housing to almost 4,500 individuals and families since its inception. Heart House is a 72-bed facility that houses men, women and families with children.

Heart House is unique in that it concentrates on helping residents find jobs. “The most important goal of Heart House is to help residents find employment so that they can ultimately be in permanent housing. To this end, we work with them to help them stay focused on a job-search,” says Nancy Lunsford, Case Manager. They often use community resources such as WorkOne and SIEOC (Southern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corporation) to help with resume building and job placement.  Residents are encouraged to look for jobs online. They are urged to fill out at least 10 job applications per day. Within the first week or two most of them find some sort of employment. “We have close to a 90% job placement rate,” says Craig Beckley, Executive Director.

Heart House: Partner with a Big HeartHeart House works with the prison and county jail to provide temporary shelter and housing for released prisoners, those on parole or house arrest. Once the residents find employment they are expected to pay a nominal “program fee” to Heart House.  However under extenuating circumstances, they are allowed to waive the fee. Lunsford explains, “Our goal is not to collect their money, but to get them to be independent. So when they are strapped for cash, we encourage them to save so that they can eventually be self-sufficient.” The residents do all the cooking and cleaning. Disabled residents who cannot find work are offered the option to volunteer at Heart House – either in the kitchen or in housekeeping.  Birthdays are celebrated. The kids go to school – arrangements are made for the school bus to pick them up. “We become a very close-knit family,” Lunsford adds. “The residents take care of one another. If one of them ends up not having enough money to pay for personal items, the others will pitch in and help them out.”

Heart House: Partner with a Big HeartHeart House serves three meals a day to its residents. The Freestore Foodbank plays an important role in ensuring that there is always enough food to go around.  As a result of its partnership with the Freestore Foodbank, Heart House is the recipient of donated food from local businesses such as frozen pizza from Little Caesars (which is a favorite among the residents), meat from Kroger and produce, meat and bread from Aldi. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture delivers frozen fruit, chicken and rare treats such as shredded cheese once a month.

Heart House is always looking for ways to increase capacity. They are currently in need of additional freezer space. By supporting the Freestore Foodbank, you are helping our partner agencies. To donate please click on http://bit.ly/2rpdZ7R