those in need
Street project for families
in crisis to be one-stop-shop
responds to criticism
of its location in business district
(March 2009) If all goes as planned by a group
of non-profit organizations and local churches, a 70,000-square-foot
building in downtown Madison, Ind., will soon become a place for people
in crisis to get help.
by Konnie McCollum
building at 602 W. Main St. may
soon become a collaborative center
for social services, including a food
bank in the back of the building.
The Clearinghouse, 602 W. Main St., will be a central
location for services and information for families that find themselves
suddenly in crisis, organizers say. The coordinated effort comes at
a time when many churches report a tremendous surge in families needing
assistance for the first time. The building is owned in trust by the
First Christian Church in Madison.
The Clearinghouse would provide an exciting scope of services
for people in need, said Molly Dodge, Director of External Relations
at River Valley Resources. The non-profit agency is the organizing principle
of the collaborative effort. River Valley Resources helps people with
employment training, grant writing, workforce development, risk management
and other work-related issues.
The group has applied for a $40,000 planning grant from the Indiana
Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The money will be used to hire
a firm to evaluate the site. If that goes well, an implementation grant
of up to $500,000 from the same agency will be applied for to rehabilitate
the front interior of the building for office spaces and computer labs.
The office space can be used for service providers, whether they choose
to locate in the building or offer services on some sort of regular
schedule. Plans have also been made for a multi-purpose space for educational
classes. A storage facility for food will be put in the back of the
Dodge said the idea came about more than a year ago. Representatives
of non-profit organizations, local churches, volunteer ministries, the
county trustee system, and other agencies have been meeting together
since February 2007 to create a common system that has the potential
to meet the needs of residents in crisis. Families in chronic need would
contact the clearinghouse for assistance and referral information.
These and other services would be targeted to families just over the
More than 30 groups have come on board to support the plan,
said Dodge. We all already share resources, and in this difficult
time, increased collaboration will help stretch scarce resources.
But not everyone is thrilled with the idea.
In December 2008, Seattle-based tourism marketing consultant Roger Brooks
was hired by a consortium of local agencies to evaluate and present
recommendations to the community on how to better market Madisonto tourists.
For a fee of $50,000, Brooks has been working on a final brand
that he is scheduled to present to the community at an April 1 forum.
But during a similar forum held in early December in which he presented
his recommendations, Brooks strongly urged the community
to rethink the idea of establishing a soup kitchen on Main
Street, right in the commerical district.
That is not an image you want in the heart of your downtown shopping
district, said to a large audience at the Brown Gym.
He suggested it could be put in the back of the building or elsewhere
The Clearinghouse is not a soup kitchen, Dodge said, responding
to Brooks comments. That was an unfortunate outcome because
Brooks did not contact us before he spoke publicly about it.
Greg Russell, pastor of the First Christian Church, said Brooks incorrectly
spoke about the project. We have seen a 60 percent increase in
people coming to us for help. Other churches and agencies are reporting
the same thing.
He said most of the increase is first time people who have been holding
things together but now find themselves in financial straits. They
shuffle in with their heads downs and are humiliated to find themselves
in this position. They dont know where to turn and what to do.
It will be better for them if they have one central place to go to for
all the help they need.
North Madison Christian Church, 1400 E. State Rd. 62, is home to one
of the largest food pantries in the area. Three days a week the church
gives out food boxes to people in crisis. Once every six weeks, the
church opens its large auditorium doors for a food giveaway. Hundreds
of people have been showing up for the food giveaways, and those needing
food boxes has exploded in recent months, especially since many of the
areas factories have laid off workers or seriously reduced their
Ashley Schutte, an administrator at North Madison Christian Church,
said her church is also excited about the Clearinghouse. The new
downtown center is not meant to replace existing efforts, she
said. Instead, it is to help centralize social services and help
direct people to where they can go to get further help.
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