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Rekas off and running as acting director of shelter

Saturday, May 26, 2012

(Photo)
Following his luncheon remarks to the Greencastle Kiwanis Club Thursday, Joel Rekas, acting executive director of Homeless Solutions Inc., chats with longtime local activist Ann Newton concerning the possible revival of a Greencastle homeless shelter.
Bouncing Thursday from lunch with the Kiwanis Club at the Inn at DePauw to coffee at the Blue Door with the chairman of the Housing Authority Board, Joe Rekas is sinking his teeth into his new role as acting executive director of the Homeless Solutions Committee Inc.

While none of those people he encountered at the Kiwanis meeting or in chatting with Marge Smith over coffee likely will ever need his direct assistance in battling homelessness, Rekas values their experiences.

Giving the Kiwanians some Greencastle-specific statistics that could actually translate into even greater homelessness locally, Rekas suggested the message isn't just that the area will continue to experience homelessness but will likely see increased homelessness.

Figures like 85 children within Greencastle schools being considered homeless for some period of time or another in the past year are often underreported, Rekas said.

"The homeless are a fluid, moving target," he said, "and we can only report those we can count. And for each person in a shelter bed (and thus counted), there is another two, three or four who are not."

The committee that has brought the retired executive director of the Bloomington Shalom Center to Greencastle for a three-month gig as acting director has targeted Oct. 1 as a potential shelter reopening date.

That still won't be easy to accomplish, Rekas said, despite the best intentions of some awfully good people who have been meeting almost weekly since the A-Way Home shelter closed last September.

"A lot of areas still need to be tied down," he said, "but it's coming.

"It has to be a community effort to succeed," Rekas assured. "There's a role for everyone."

Rekas said he has recommended to the new Homeless Solutions Board of Directors that it should have a full year's operating budget in hand before opening the shelter and will need a "very diverse funding base."

"I think we're going to be smart, creative and approach this from many different angles," he said the group begins to collect contributions, donations and grant funding (United Way is serving as the fiscal agent for the shelter group, accepting donations with "Homeless Solutions" written in the memo line on the bottom of the check).

As far as a physical facility, Rekas and the Homeless Solutions group are still talking with the Housing Authority about the availability of the vacant A-Way Home building at 309 E. Franklin St.

In the meantime, the group's mission statement and vision are still being defined, Rekas told the Kiwanians in his first public appearance since becoming acting director.

He reminded them that one way good people judge themselves is by "how they care for the most vulnerable people among us."

Rekas called access to safe, decent and affordable housing, food and education Americans' "fundamental human rights."



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