By Shirley Boardman, SVdP Volunteer
Every community has unhoused people who are in great need. While all SVdP conferences are reaching out and ministering to the homeless, this spotlight focuses specifically on how the Lawrence and Monroe counties are working to meet the needs of their homeless brothers and sisters.
LAWRENCE COUNTY – BEDFORD
Karen Wade has worked tirelessly with SVdP in Bedford for decades, particularly for the homeless. Additionally, she serves on the board of the two primary homeless initiatives in Bedford: Becky’s Place and the Men’s Warming Shelter. This enables her to keep an eye on the challenges and opportunities facing both of these agencies so SVdP can partner with them to address the most pressing needs.
On a regular basis, the SVdP Conference is able to provide clothing, personal care items, household goods and furniture to those who are homeless or graduating to independent living. When needed, they can also help cover the cost of prescriptions, groceries, medical expenses and other necessities (i.e., car seats, diapers, cribs and changing tables). Just last year, SVdP provided more than $35,000 to the clients of Becky’s Place and the Men’s Warming Shelter.
Becky’s Place & The Mission of Fr. Rick
Becky’s Place traces its origins to the legacy of Sister Becky, who through her own personal charity, offered shelter to homeless women and children. Inspired by Sister Becky’s work, Becky’s Place was launched as a Catholic Charity in February 2012. Fr. Rick Eldred, pastor of St. Vincent’s Church, was instrumental in mobilizing the community and being an advocate until his untimely death in 2020.
Fr. Rick was never satisfied with the community’s adequate response for homeless men. Although the Men’s Warming Shelter has been open seasonally for about five years, Karen says that a coordinated, case managed response to homeless men in Bedford and Lawrence County is still in its infancy. The shelter is only able to operate during the winter months. Plus, the community has faced the ravages of drug addiction, mental health problems, and the transient nature of the men makes it difficult to reach them. Karen is not discouraged, though. In memory of Fr. Rick, Karen is carrying the torch to be an advocate, support and ally for the homeless in her community.
Interested in helping? firstname.lastname@example.org
MONROE COUNTY – BLOOMINGTON
Monroe County, home of Indiana University, is a county rich in resources but also has more than 20% of its population at the poverty level. Many of the adjoining counties also have a significant numbers identified at the poverty level, so it’s not uncommon for individuals facing economic challenges to gravitate to Monroe County seeking help.
For decades, SVdP in Bloomington has been a source of help, providing furniture and appliances for the community, as well as offering programs that assisted with car repairs, rent deposits, utility assistance, gas money for individuals living in their car, bus tickets and Christmas food baskets.
Financial assistance is not the only contribution the ministry provides. SVdP volunteers offer a friendly face and personal contact with people in need through home visits and outreach efforts. Volunteers Jo Gilbertson and Scott Alber say that their circle of care, collaboration with other service agencies and respect for human dignity are intrinsic values and strategies that shape their ministries.
Strengthening Efforts with the Homeless
Jo has been involved in outreach to homeless people for 13 years. Springing from her years as a middle school science teacher, she came to know her community and its needs through the eyes of her students. Now retired, she and her husband volunteer with SVdP to help address some of those needs.
She says efforts with the homeless are strengthened by:
- Knowing about available community resources
- Volunteer training and a case management approach
- Being open to new approaches and information
- Regular communication with those who serve the homeless
- Stable and supportive leadership (a special shout out to Scott Alber and others who keep their conference well organized)
- Willingness to be an advocate for those whose voices might not be heard
Their conference provides support both in response to working directly with homeless individuals as well as requests from other agencies including the Shalom Center, Housing First’s Crawford Homes, Wheeler Mission, New Hope Family Shelter and The Rise.
Following a well-defined interview process, two volunteers meet directly with individuals and determine what help could be provided. This process includes educating the individual on the resources in the community, providing monetary support and a commitment to staying in touch through follow-ups. A heavy dose of humanity, listening and sharing are always key.
Interested in helping or learning more?