Contributed by Jim Koerber
We often hear about large cities dealing with the issue of homelessness. These reports are often filled with stories of crime and the litter accompanying this segment of the population drawn to the city. But what about the small towns in America? Don’t they have homeless people? Of course they do, but where are they?
Many stories could be told of the homeless in our small town of Corydon, Indiana. The lucky ones are the couch surfers—those who stay a few nights here and there with friends or relatives. The St. Joseph Conference of St. Vincent de Paul is often called upon to assist some of the unlucky ones—those who attempt to find food and shelter wherever they can. Most are adults that have lost their way through disability, job loss, being put out of their home, or perhaps running away. And many are veterans wandering to find a place that feels like home.
It was at one “homeless shelter” that a crisis arose on one of the coldest nights of February 2019. Due to some miscommunication, the State Fire Marshall drove down from Indianapolis to close down the building and kick everyone out, despite warnings of a bitterly cold night. Since the city was only willing to pay for two nights at a local hotel, a network of Corydon Churches and non-profit organizations raised money to pay for an extended stay at a hotel. This network also served nightly meals to the homeless men, women and children and assisted with their search for alternative housing. The generosity of our parishioners also allowed us to assist with paying deposits, paying the first month of rent, and in many cases, supplying furnishings to those able to find alternative housing. When the original issues at the building were resolved, our volunteers assisted in cleaning and provided furnishings for those moving back.
Unfortunately, this February, our Conference was informed that one of the buildings at this site was closing. Residents were given an eviction notice because the property had sold. We had at least ten family units with nowhere to go. We began assisting them in their search for low-income housing. Prayers for guidance and strength continue to be answered, and we have been able to assist some of these homeless folks to find a safe and secure place to go. Since this most recent effort has put a strain on the St. Joseph Conference budget and has depleted our supply of donated furnishings, in this instance, we are seeking to purchase affordable, needed furnishings.
According to our records, last year we gave out nearly $50,000 in cash assistance to secure housing, prevent evictions and avoid shut-off of essential utilities. Sadly, this year we are on pace to exceed
the requests of last year already, as we address the issue of homelessness in small towns like Corydon.