LETTER: Closing of homeless resource worsens panhandling

Our city has an issue, but there is a way to start working on a solution.

Regarding Greg Morris’ recent column [City must address panhandling to ensure downtown’s survival, July 10], the increase in panhandling downtown can be directly linked to the loss of a vital resource, The Reuben Engagement Center, a 30-bed facility at 746 E. Market St.

Reuben opened in 2017 to help homeless Hoosiers overcome addictions by providing a safe place to detox and connect to resources. REC’s funding was provided by $750,000 from the Albert and Sara Reuben family and a $250,000 Lily Endowment-United Way grant to the Coalition of Homelessness, Intervention and Prevention. The city must repay the $750,000 to CHIP (not the family) if REC closes.

The center was opened with much fanfare from Mayor Hogsett, City-County Councilor Leroy Robinson and others, who said “the center will save Indianapolis between $3 [million] and $8 million a year by keeping homeless, intoxicated people out of emergency rooms and jail. It’s important that we have a stake in homelessness. I think this effort in creating this center—which will be owned and operated by the city—shows our commitment to issues of homelessness in our city.”

On April 10, 2020, without discussion, notice, input, protests or even a whisper from CHIP (the city’s lead homeless advocacy organization and potential benefactor of $750,000 if REC closes), REC closed.

A sign on the door read “The REC has been temporarily closed to reallocate staff to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The 20+ REC staff were relocated to operate a COVID-19 quarantine hotel.

This decision slammed the door closed to those seeking assistance and treatment. People are dying. Closing Reuben is the equivalent of closing the emergency room. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Why do they have to contract COVID to be saved?

The city is fumbling to create a detox in the COVID hotel to avoid reopening the Reuben facility. Pathway to Recovery houses 94 formerly homeless, substance-free residents, (including congregate living) with only four staff and a few volunteers. Something’s not right.

__________

Sandy Jeffers
Executive Director, Pathway to Recovery

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}