News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 31, 2013

Group issues challenge to find homes for homeless

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A local organization that finds homes for the homeless has issued a challenge to others to find new uses for abandoned and rundown properties.

Families By Choice founder Muriel Drake Ryan said Monday that expanding beyond group homes for the homeless in Terre Haute is one of the goals for the next five to seven years, and FBC wants to have safe and energy-efficient rental homes available in two years.

Many houses marked with condemnation stickers can be rehabilitated, she said, and many people facing eviction need advocates who can step in to help keep those people housed while working out their financial difficulties. Volunteers wanting to help with those issues are encouraged to contact FBC to find out how to make a difference for the homeless.

Families By Choice is entering its eighth year in the Terre Haute area, providing housing and offering feeding programs. The organization provides transitional housing such as Deborah’s House for single women with young children; Project Jonathan for intellectually challenged adults older than 30; and Timothy’s House for men, with preference given to those exiting foster care.

Ryan said homeless people in Terre Haute are often limited in finding housing, due to public housing regulations or by poor quality of affordable rental units. She said she has met with the city’s code enforcement office and has found that about 350 properties in the city are listed as condemned, but about 40 percent could be rehabilitated to be safe and sanitary for $5,000 or less.

Setting standards for rental property is an issue for Families by Choice, she said. Structures must be mechanically and physically sound, as well as insulated so that the occupants have safe, affordable housing. She said she hopes to start a program where acceptable rental properties receive an FBC sticker to display – a sort of seal of approval landlords would seek.

Another option that FBC plans to start is a rent-to-own program in which occupants are coached for two years to learn about home ownership, credit, budgeting and saving, with home ownership as the final step.

Rehabilitating houses and selling them to the occupants with a low profit margin will also help clean up neighborhoods and get people invested in their futures and the community, she said. FBC is already partnered with a local bank to acquire property that can be rehabilitated and sold to people in need of housing.

Families By Choice recently went through a financial audit which showed no discrepancies in the use of contributions from donors, Ryan said. The organization, which now has a 10-member board of directors, is expanding its network to include area labor unions, churches and organizations.

Anyone wanting to get involved in FBC can send a letter of interest to Families By Choice Inc., 164 Allendale Court, Terre Haute, IN 47802. To reach the organization’s community outreach office, call 812-230-4401.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.