As someone who is very familiar with the history and operations of the Reuben Engagement Center, Sandy Jeffers’ July 24 letter to IBJ reminded me of Senator Moynihan’s famous line, “Everyone is entitled to [her] own opinion, but not to [her] own facts.”
First, the open layout of the REC is a potential COVID petri dish. The temporary closing of the REC in April was a difficult decision reached by a team of dedicated public health officials informed by the best science at the time and motivated by only one imperative: as configured, can the REC operate without increasing the likelihood that our homeless neighbors struggling with addiction and the dedicated REC staff will contract COVID? I can only imagine Ms. Jeffers’ justifiable reaction if the REC had remained open, only to infect its clients and staff.
Second, anyone remotely informed about the construction of the new Assessment + Intervention Center that will be part of the new Community Justice Campus knows the REC will occupy the entire second floor. When the REC reopens permanently and continues to save and change lives, it will be designed and operated in a way to mitigate the risks of COVID.
Third, the idea that the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP)—for years the driving force behind an engagement center—would be part of some plot to shut down the REC permanently so the Reuben Family grant could be clawed back is, well, delusional, to put it mildly. The recent reopening of the REC in a safe, non-congregate, temporary setting with the same staff is the best evidence. CHIP worked alongside the City, Marion County Health Department and the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center team to ensure this.
With the strong support of the mayor and his team, Leroy Robinson and his council colleagues, the Sandra Eskenazi leadership, CHIP, the front-line homeless service providers, Brandy McCord and her dedicated REC staff, and a committed board of community advisers, the Reuben Engagement Center has become a national model for addressing the special needs of homeless individuals struggling with addiction.
Not opinion, fact.
Reuben Engagement Center Board