News and Tribune

Clark County

June 16, 2009

New Albany group looking to start new homeless shelter

A new safe haven?

Some New Albany community leaders are looking into the possibility of forming a second homeless shelter in Southern Indiana.

Maj. Steve Kiger, of The Salvation Army along Green Valley Road in New Albany, said a small group has been working behind the scenes on the project for many months. He said efforts have been slowed by the struggling economy, but they plan to sponsor a formal study of homelessness in Southern Indiana and begin grant writing.

The goal is to have a timeline and a more formal plan for the shelter in place within three to six months.

“We feel it’s possible we can do it. It just may take some time,” Kiger said.

John Miller, executive director of Floyd County Community Housing Development, and Christine Harbeson, executive director of the Interfaith Community Council, also are key players in the group.

Miller said he believes there is a need for a shelter that is more “geographically accessible” to homeless people in New Albany and surrounding areas. Harbeson said she has seen an increase in poverty in Floyd County, but was less certain about the need for a new shelter.

“Personally, I think something has to be done,” Harbeson said. “I don’t want to say yes or no to a shelter. I need to see the data first.”

Tensions between Kiger and leaders at Haven House Inc. — the operator of the only existing shelter within several counties in Southern Indiana — came to a head Friday. It began at a Southern Indiana Housing Initiative meeting in Louisville that morning.

Barbara Anderson, director of Haven House in Jeffersonville, became irked by comments Kiger made at the meeting. In fact, Anderson was so upset she told The Evening News that she had planned to close Haven House for the weekend.

“The major [Kiger] said they had already discussed it with Louisville and it wouldn’t matter if Haven House closed, that they would be able to roll all 80 homeless people [that can be housed at Haven House] into their system,” Anderson said. “We wanted to shut the whole thing down for the weekend and see what happens.”

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