News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 4, 2013

New home for the homeless

Donated house provides space, opportunity

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Christmas came early for one local not-for-profit organization.  

Families By Choice, a group that works to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, last month received a gift from Wells Fargo Bank and the City of Terre Haute.

A house.

As Muriel Ryan stood inside the four-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath property near the center of the city, the Families by Choice founder spoke about the house’s potential.

“It’s two-story,” with good wood and many features, Ryan said. “There is even a useful attic.”

The property has good bones, Ryan said, but it needs to be cleaned up and repaired before it can be occupied.

“It does have some historical value to it,” she said of the house, which was built almost 100 years ago, in 1914.

“We are giving this house a second century,” Ryan said.  

But its location is also one of its favorable qualities.

“One of the reasons why I liked it is because of the location,” Ryan said, adding that it is close to many popular downtown destinations and the bus line.

With all its potential, the charity is currently looking at options for the house.

“Right now many of our plans will be dependent on contributions to the organization and the volunteers plus supplies to bring the house to code,” Ryan said in an email.

Ryan said Families by Choice is currently considering two of options for the house. One option is for it to be used for the homeless, perhaps as a shelter. The second option is to sell the property “on the open market to keep the programs going that presently serve the homeless and hungry.”

Families By Choice, which recently launched a new fundraising campaign to “keep the lights and heat on,” runs transitional housing programs such as Deborah’s House (for single women with young children); Project Jonathan (a LIFEtime living program for intellectually challenged adults over 30); and Timothy’s House (for men).  It also provides supplemental food delivery services for the disabled and elderly, among other activities.

This year, more than five years after being formed, Families by Choice has received the property from Wells Fargo and the City of Terre Haute — “free and clear.” The deed is expected next week after it is recorded, Ryan said.

The City of Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment worked with Families by Choice on the donation.

The department  “has participated with many not-for-profit entities for decades to improve neighborhoods and to assist groups whose purpose is to provide services to low/moderate income persons,” said Dean Branson, the department’s real estate administrator.

Branson said the property was owned by Wells Fargo Financial Group, which offered the house as a donation to non-profits or the city for charitable purposes.

The department “agreed to act as a recipient from Wells Fargo for the purpose of transferring the property then to Families By Choice,” Branson said, adding that the city automatically qualified as a recipient under the Wells Fargo program but no other non-profits at that time did.

Families By Choice expressed interest in the house.

“We have taken advantage of many opportunities over the years to help get properties transferred to charitable groups,” Branson said.  

 “It seemed like this house would benefit a group such as Families By Choice,” he said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.