BEDFORD – The Men’s Warming Shelter has found a new home after the Bedford Zoning Appeals board approved a special exception permit for boarding and lodging at the location.
The approval was 3-0 with Angel Hawkins abstaining from the vote.
Charles Edwards interim president of Stone City Alliance For Recovery and Hope Inc. spoke on behalf of the organization that is purchasing the property at 1414 H Street to operate the Men’s Warming Shelter.
One resident Monty and Polly Flynn did express concerns about residing close to the location. Monty also expressed concern regarding loitering on private property prior to the shelter being opened.
Edwards advised her that they have strict guidelines and rules for those who use the facility and if she experienced any problems to contact officials.
“Many in this community, believe homelessness is a big city problem. But I am here certainly to tell you that is not the case,” said Edwards in his opening remarks.
The Men’s Warming Shelter first opened on January 2, 2014, following the tragic death of a homeless man in Bedford.
During the past eight years, more than 100 men have been served at the Men’s Warming Shelter, originally coordinated under the offices of the Salvation Army and later by the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church alongside various other churches in Lawrence County.
SARAH Inc. was incorporated on October 23, 2019, and on March 5, 2020, was approved by the IRS as a 501(c)3 organization.
According to Edwards, “SARAH Inc.’s board of directors is comprised of 13 individuals who are talented and committed community members. The City of Bedford graciously allowed the group to lease the old Salvation Army building for a nominal fee for three years. The lease expired on April 30, 2021, and could not be renewed,”
The board looked diligently for a new location and believed that a good location is 1414 H Street. The building itself was constructed in 1935 and has 4,500 square feet of space, in a commercial location. SARAH would like to provide overnight shelter, food, and clothing, from November 1 – March 31 every winter.
According to Edwards the shelter normally provides shelter to approximately 12-15 men nightly, when operational. The highest client count at one time was 18. Sixty different men had overnight stayed in 2020, and forty-nine in 2021. This equated to over 1.737 overnight stays in 2020, and 1,129 overnight stays in 2021.
At least one staff member will be on duty at all times when the shelter is open and two volunteers have played significant roles in the operations of the shelter thus far.
The shelter will provide case management services, to help them obtain identification, documents, SNAP benefits, Medicaid, emergency telephones, independent housing, and counseling referral services.
Significant progress has been made since the group first began addressing the need within the community. A team from Hoosier Uplands including David Miller, Executive Director, has assessed the building and determined the building to be adequate for the needs of the group. The building itself is structurally sound and well maintained according to Edwards.
Bedford Fire Department has inspected the site, and an architect is engaged in the renovation plans for the facility. The renovation will meet state and local codes. A security camera contract is being drafted for both inside and outside monitoring of the facility and a fence will be erected to provide an area for smoking.
Fire sprinklers are being quoted should they be required, and the HVAC company is being consulted on any upgrades that may also be needed.
The building will be outfitted for sleeping quarters, recreation room, case management offices, guest check-in, offices, kitchens, and restroom facilities along with showers in some of the restrooms. The building will be designed and renovated to meet all state and local guidelines and be approved by the necessary agencies. ADA compliance will also be enforced along with the addition of exterior doors to provide proper egress in case of an emergency.
“We are continuing the efforts to help those men in our community to improve their lives and find a way for them to live independently, that’s our goal,” said Edwards following the vote.