The Charis House ministry

The Charis House is a division of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission Ministries. This organization, located in downtown Fort Wayne, provides emergency and crisis shelter to homeless men, women and children in our area. The Mission also offers programming, to those who are inclined to rebuild their lives, by allowing them to examine the core issues that contributed to their becoming homeless. Often times bad life choices, alcohol or drug issues, relationships, mental health issues and increasingly, loss of employment contribute to the reasons for those seeking these services. Homelessness is the culmination of these issues.

Recently, the Charis House announced its intention to have Fairmount Place partially vacated to allow for the construction of a 30,600 square-feet facility that would double the capacity of their current facility on Washington Boulevard. This request comes before the Fort Wayne City Council in a public hearing later this evening. Â

This project will help to meet a growing need in our community that exists in sheltering homeless women and children. Currently, all local shelters that house women and children are at capacity with long waiting lists. This is not a seasonal or recent development as they have all been at capacity for several years.

Every December, the Fort Wayne Homeless Task Force does a count of the homeless they find on the streets, usually late at night or very early in the morning. Every year, it seems that they only locate one or two people and yet we hear about the constant need in our community. I asked Rev. Patty Crisp, Charis House President, about this.

[audio:https://www.aroundfortwayne.com/audio/2009_02_23_Rev_Patty_Crisp-1.mp3]

Every year, for the past three years, Charis House has had to consistently turn away 80+ women and children with that number rising in each of those years. This year’s projected number is conservative given the current nature of the economy: 85 women and 82 children.

Charis House currently has some 40 beds available in a facility that was not intended for use as a shelter. The building has been built on to several times over the years with the Rescue Mission taking ownership in 1996. The building then underwent extensive remodeling with several local firms and organizations donating supplies and labor to make it more welcoming to children and women. In December of that year, the facility opened as the Charis House. Almost from the start, the shelter ran at capacity and remains at capacity to this day. Rev. Patty has spearheaded the efforts to develop a new facility and has spent much time in acquiring the land and working with Derek Frederickson, Engineering Resources, to develop a plan.

 

 
Current images from the Charis House,
showing the limitations of the current facilities

 

One of Rev. Patty’s keystones, in handling the children and women who come to her seeking change in their life, is empowerment. I asked her, “I know empowerment is a big word with you. What does empowerment mean to a homeless woman and her children?”

[audio:https://www.aroundfortwayne.com/audio/2009_02_23_Rev_Patty_Crisp-2.mp3]

It is this sense of empowerment plus accountability to staff, and more importantly the individual personally, that contribute to turning lives around. The women are held accountable for their time. If involved with long-term programming, there is an intensive daily schedule that keeps them busy. If they are only receiving emergency services, they still must maintain a daily schedule, plus work on issues like finding stable long-term housing and employment. At the end of this post are links to some documents you may view to get a sense of this accountability.

I want to point out that the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission relies solely on private funds donated by individuals and companies. They accept no public money, nor do they seek it. They were also a founding member of the United Way of Allen County from which they received $102,184 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007.

This is an excerpt from their July 1, 2006 thru June 30, 2007 financial audit:

Revenue, Gains and Other Support
Contributions from all sources – $1,948,624
In-kind contributions – $190,721
United Way of Allen County – $102,184
Bargains Galore income – $74,251
Transitional Housing income – $34,413
Investment income – $31,482
Other – $21,010
Total $2,365,673

Expenses
Emergency shelter care – $334,041
Transitional housing – $176,565
Community meals – $252,393
Resident restoration programs – $1,038,105
Computer learning center – $56,363
Bargains Galore operations – $116,427
Management and general – $144,172
Fund-raising – $255,928
Total expenses $2,373,994

So, while an organization like this does not contribute to the community in the form of property taxes, their true contribution is immeasurable when one considers the changes an individual touched by the organization undergoes. These individuals enter as those which our society has deemed “lost” and given up on and sometimes even thrown away. What emerge are stronger and productive members of our society. Some of these individuals go on to start local businesses, raise healthy families, contribute to society through payroll and property taxes… the list is endless.

This proposed facility is much needed in our community. Whether it is the correct development for this property or whether or not it is realized somewhere else, it is needed. I’ll leave you with another snippet from my interview with Rev. Patty in which she talks about her desires for this project.

[audio:https://www.aroundfortwayne.com/audio/2009_02_23_Rev_Patty_Crisp-3.mp3]

 

A selection of documents about the Charis House programs:
Emergency Phase Schedule
Information about the Charis House 
Restorative Phase Schedule
Restorative Phase Contract – must be signed and accountable by women in this program
Timeline – each participants time length may vary due to appointments outside the agency, this is the minimum suggested times

 

Related weblinks:
Fort Wayne Rescue Mission Ministries on the web
Previous AFW Posts

 

Related Images:

2 COMMENTS

  1. Stephen,

    I still need to email you back sometime. Anyway, this is a difficult thing. The things that most frustrates me is the design rather than the location. Although it would be nice to have this space to be developed for something that would more directly impact the community, the Charis house is a necessary part of our community and one that has some extreme benefits, many of which we don’t see.

    I know that it would make the process a little longer -perhaps not as long as working with NS -, but I would like to see a different building designed. A more urban building would be beneficial to all parties involved. And it is possible to have an Urban Structure At a certain level the women should be able to walk, catch the bus etc., with the building set this way they are being tied to cars. Also, although I don’t think many would see this as an immediate advantage, the ability of the women and children to be involved in the greater community would be helpful for them and the rest of the community. I express this because I don’t think growth and change happens in an incubator – that just gets the shell cracked. I would be highly impressed is the city and other parties got together with Charis place and planned a more urban building, thus taking some financial pressure off of Charis.

    So I don’t know, if they build it as is, I will be glad there is a new facility, but disappointed that is couldn’t fit into the neighborhood and be a little more Urban in design. I don’t want to be upset at Charis, but I worry allowing this to be built sets a precedent and other organizations and businesses will slip through this this more suburban design.

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