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The city of Terre Haute will receive about $900,000 in federal CARES Act grants later this summer and will put $300,000 of that toward a day center to assist the homeless.

The Department of Redevelopment has proposed to use some of the Housing and Urban Development grants for the day center while the balance would be allocated to five local non-profit organizations.

Terre Haute is one of 24 Indiana cities and counties to receive federal relief money to be used to assist nonprofit organizations to serve those most impacted by COVID-19.

Along with money earmarked for the day center, the redevelopment department has proposed granting more than $600,000 to five local not-for-profits, including;

• $33,000 to Catholic Charities of Terre Haute Food Bank

• $33,000 to the Vigo County School Corp. backpack food program

• $33,000 to Hamilton Center

• $33,000 to the Wabash Valley Health Center

• $470,000 to Union Health

The money donated to the nonprofit organizations is to be used for services, medical supplies, food supplies and other related essentials used to help those affected by the virus.

Phil Kesner, grants and planning administrator for city redevelopment, said the department is working to put together agreements with the selected nonprofit organizations to make sure the money is used only on qualified expenditures — those that help people affected by homelessness or the coronavirus.

“Some other communities are using their allocation to help businesses,” Kesner said. “We’ve found there to be greater need among these agencies that are dealing with people who have been really affected by the virus.”

The department is required to offer a period for public comment on its plans during regular business hours at redevelopment offices in City Hall. The comment period has been extended to 4 p.m. June 5.

Using part of the federal grant money on a long-sought-after day center for the homeless and those otherwise affected by the coronavirus seemed a perfect fit for the money’s intended purpose, Kesner said.

The effort to put together a day center is being spearheaded by Reach Services and an advisory board of experts associated with the Wabash Valley Homeless Council.

Reach Services is working to acquire a building that suits its needs and would use the redevelopment funds to renovate the space and outfit it as needed.

Susie Thompson, executive director of Reach Services, said she is hopeful the organization can close on that space “in the very near future.”

She said given COVID-19’s impact on the community and the record unemployment it and shutdowns have caused, the need for a day center has never been higher.

“What we’re seeing since COVID-19 hit is that our problem has grown to an almost crisis level,” Thompson said. “We’ve been, for lack of a better term, slammed with folks who have no food, can’t pay their rent or their utilities.”

Modeled after the Phoenix Center in Champaign, Illinois, the Pathways Day Center will offer the homeless a host of services from several service organizations, said Thompson.

Thompson envisions the center being one that offers access to employment and education services, drug and alcohol counseling, dental services, washers and dryers, a food pantry, showers, clothing and opportunities for the homeless to socialize.

It will also, she said, give them a phone number to list on job applications or an address for mail.

“It’s hard to get a job if you don’t have a phone number or a place to get mail,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have lots of different agencies coming in to provide those services to the homeless or those at high risk.”

Thompson said she hopes to see the center open later this year, preferably before winter weather moves in.

Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at alex.modesitt@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex. 

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