JEFFERSONVILLE — Over the past two and a half years, one Southern Indiana woman has found a way out of a bad situation and now can look ahead at a new life, through the help of a permanent supportive housing program through LifeSpring Health Systems.
The woman, whom the News and Tribune is not naming because she is a trauma survivor, had been pregnant and with a small child when she fled a violent situation, seeking safety for herself and her family at a homeless shelter.
“I was grateful to have a place to go to get away from my situation,” she said, but shelter life had been a strain — it was inconsistent and the crowding left little privacy for her to heal from her situation.
But after a few months, she learned of the LifeSpring program, which happened to have a spot available. Within a few weeks, she and her family were in a new home — this one with support services they needed.
“When they first showed it to me, I literally cried,” she said. “I was just so thankful.”
This woman's story might soon be a more common one in Southern Indiana, as plans for a proposed new development in Jeffersonville for those experiencing homelessness and addiction unfolds.
Mariposa Springs, a proposed 45-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Jeffersonville, would give those in need of a home as well as services such as healthcare, mental healthcare, addiction treatment and job opportunities, a fresh start at life.
“This is like a dream come true,” Barb Anderson, director of the area's only homeless shelter and a member of the community addiction and recovery resource group Clark County CARES, said. “Forty-five units for people in recovery is like gold."
According to the development proposal from Black & White Investments, there are around 250 to 300 people in Southern Indiana living in tents, on the streets or in shelters. Hundreds more stay with family or friends, often moving from place to place.
Anderson said the shelter she operates, Haven House, is continually at or above max capacity, with about 90 residents on any given day. About 25 percent of those are people with direct addictions, she said.
“We need five times that many units for the seriousness of addictions in this area," Anderson said. "But this is a start, and it's a really good start.”
The proposed facility is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded Permanent Supportive Housing program, which seeks to provide on-site and external support to people as they get back on their feet. Mariposa Springs would be a place for people who are homeless to find stable ground — a safe place for them to work through recovery from addiction, while having the space to grow into a productive member of society.
This would be the fourth similar project for BWI, an Indianapolis faith-based development company — there are two in Indianapolis and one under construction in Anderson.
Kelli Werner, vice president of development at BWI said the company was directed to Southern Indiana for the next location in part due to the opioid crisis of the last several years, and based on the lack of such types of housing in the area.
HUD's Permanent Housing Region 13, which includes Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Crawford, Orange, Scott, Jefferson and Washington counties, has only 24 units of permanent supportive housing.
“I think this particular area has been on the radar for a while,” Werner said. “That's pretty significant when you have eight counties that need some sort of supportive housing and there are only 24 units."
Werner said the projects are close to home with company owners, whose mission is to help those in the community who need it.
“Second chances are extremely important for us and our company,” she said. “I think all of us can certainly say that someone we know or love has been impacted by substance abuse and homelessness.
“To me, it's important to make sure there's being something done to provide a solution.”
BWI is partnering with LifeSpring Health Systems and Building and Impacting Communities, Inc. for the project, which would mean on-site staff and access to services in and outside the facility — health and service needs, referrals and recreational and community activities.
LifeSpring currently operates 17 of the 24 permanent supportive housing units in Southern Indiana. Most are individual units in New Albany apartment buildings.
While the current program is a little different — the new one would provide support for addiction recovery — LifeSpring's Jessica Floyd said it's been a success and she's ready to expand the reach.
“I'm really excited because it's going to give so many opportunities to our homeless population, almost like a stepping stone to self-sufficiency,” she said.
Residents who meet criteria based on need are able to move in, have their rent covered while they work on improving their life situations and look for employment. Staff will help along the way.
“We have seen families who have been able to go on and purchase their own homes, rent their own homes and be successful and not return to homelessness,” she said. “Because unfortunately, that can be a vicious cycle.”
BWI submitted an application to the Jeffersonville office of planning and zoning Aug. 21 to request a zoning change for the proposed site of the facility, which is the currently vacant at 406 Ewing Lane next to Bridgepointe Apartments and across from Bridgepointe Elementary.
The application, which requests a rezoning from IS (Institutional) to M-3 (Multi-family,) is expected to be heard at the Sept. 25 meeting of the Jeffersonville Plan Commission. The decision, and any potential development plans would first go through the plan commission then the Jeffersonville City Council.
Council president Lisa Gill said the project is in line with plans the city has to address homelessness — the mayor created a homelessness task force in 2012 and earlier this year, the council voted to help fund the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana with $75,000.
“We need a good, sound project because this type of housing is needed,” Gill said, adding that she supports the plan that LifeSpring will help provide support to residents both on and off-site. “It's a nice wrap-around of services and support to succeed.”
But she recognizes that not all people may be initially in favor of the idea, and she hopes that ongoing talks and meetings can help bring everyone to the same table and get educated on what the facility can do for the community.
“The project itself is going to be very nice,” she said. “I know a lot of people have the mentality 'not in my backyard,' but I wouldn't be in support of anything that I don't feel confident it's going to be handled right from start to finish.”
BWI has met with some community stakeholders already, with more in the works. There will be community meetings determined later to get input from residents, and they'll continue to have talks with other stakeholders — Greater Clark County Schools, local churches near the site, Clark County CARES, Community Action of Southern Indiana and the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana.
“They're really doing their due diligence to let them know that this is a sound project, and that they're involved and want it to succeed,” Gill said.
HELP TO HELP HERSELF
Since living in the permanent housing, the New Albany resident has been working on herself, gaining strength and confidence to grow as a person and as a mother. She's been taking advantage of the programs, getting back into school, getting employment and a car.
She said if it were not for the program, she might have ended up back in the dangerous situation she had found the courage to leave.
“I can tell you it would be different but it wouldn't be in a good way,” she said. “I probably would have ended up back with my abuser, probably having to beg him to go back and then taking the abuse even harder because I left."
But with this new opportunity and support, “I didn't have to look back,” she said. “I didn't have to be afraid.”