Have a heart!

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

February 14 some people will give out Valentine’s Day cards to loved ones or show some expression of love from the heart.

But, perhaps this sweet holiday could be celebrated by having a heart for the Heart House. What is the Heart House? Why is it important and what can we do to help?

The Heart House is an organization whose main focus is to help homeless persons re-enter society as productive citizens. It’s a place where families as well as individuals can come to get their life together, where they can experience emotional and economic healing. Their mission statement is not just a statement - it is an actuality.

According to Craig Beckley, executive director of the Heart House, they have seen 1600 people find healing. Over 400 of those people have been children under the age of six, who come with their families. Quite a few babies have been born while their mom lived at the Heart House.

Heart House is a 501c3 non-profit organization that specializes in caring for the homeless, giving them not just food and shelter, but requiring them to find employment. Residents may stay there anywhere from two to three months up to a year. During that time, they are required to look for, find and pursue gainful employment, if they are employable, as well as take classes on budgeting, money management, nutrition and parenting. In addition, each resident has daily chores while living at the Heart House.

Amazingly, their yearly budget is just $400,000 with only $20,000 of that money coming from federal monies. The rest is raised by personal donations, a yearly fund-raising dinner, and by income generated from the shelter’s apartment buildings, one in Versailles, which has 24 units and one in Vevay which has nine units. Heart House serves a five county area, operating in Ripley, Dearborn, Franklin, Ohio, and Switzerland counties. The apartments are used as transitional housing.

Heart House is run by a 10-member board with people representing each county. Frank Goodpaster from Ripley County is the president of the board. He noted that the “Heart House exists to meet the needs of people who are homeless and beyond that - to give them the tools needed to go from homeless to productive citizens in our communities.” Beckley echoes that statement, adding, “the heart of Heart House is having a heart for people.”

Heart House began as a dream of the Dearborn County Ministerial Association, the local mental health association along with many interested citizens. It is located on Highway 50 between Dillsboro and Aurora. It was chartered in 1998 and the main facility opened in March of 2002. The building is new, clean, well-kept and unlike any other shelter.

This is not a government program, nor is it a “free lunch.” Beckley said, “We are not a warm bed, hot meal shelter.” It is, however, a place where homeless people can find hope again. And, as a 60-bed facility, it is one of the largest in the State of Indiana. Very few shelters have facilities where families can stay together. Heart House does keep families together.

Those who are eligible must be homeless, with no place to stay, provide a police background check, and be making progress in order to remain at Heart House. They do not accept people who have been in trouble for rape, child molestation, domestic violence, or sexual crimes of any sort. This house truly is a safe house.

Heart House has a tremendous success rate, with 66% of residents eligible for employment becoming gainfully employed and staying that way. While no one is getting rich in this endeavor, their 8-year track record speaks for itself. Beckley assured The Versailles Republican that “we know what we can do for people. We are a no-nonsense place and our goal, our hope of accomplishment is that we can ‘homeless-proof’ people so they never become homeless again and live quality lives.”

Heart House has never had to close its doors for lack of funds, all its bills are paid, and it has no debt. And, taking a tour of the place, one can see it is up-to-date, clean, and well kept. The pantry is well stocked.

The Heart House can always use prayer and true giving from the heart, whether it be in the form of a monetary donation or volunteer act. While many people will never know what it means to be homeless, the people who land at Heart House do.

At this Valentine’s Day, when the heart is of utmost importance, why not remember the Heart House and perhaps invest more in people than simple greeting cards?

To find out more about giving to this worthwhile cause, you can contact the Heart House at 812-926-4890.