Board calls Oct. 1 homeless shelter reopening target

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bill Wieland's calling has obviously always been a higher one than most of the rest of us.

But when it comes to cell phone use, the retired former St. Andrew's Episcopal Church rector, is admittedly technologically challenged.

Yet at the most opportune time Monday evening, Wieland's cell phone not only rang but provided the good news that could help toward the possible reopening of the local homeless shelter.

The newly named Homeless Solutions Inc. group, seeking to revive what had been operated locally as the A-Way Home shelter, was meeting Monday at Bob Jedele's office north of Greencastle when Wieland reported that he had not heard any official word on funding from the United Way.

He, Jerry Lewis and Alan Barber had met with the United Way of Putnam County Board of Directors on April 24, seeking the release of $7,900 in funds designated for A-Way Home that have gone unspent since the shelter closed Sept. 9, 2011.

Those funds are key because they will enable the group to hire Bloomington's Joel Rekas as a consultant for three months to hopefully steer the project toward reality and potential sustainability.

Wieland said he was awaiting a call Monday from Tom Graffis of the United Way, explaining that was the reason he had uncharacteristically strapped his cell phone to his belt -- just in case the call might come during the shelter meeting.

Thirty minutes into the meeting, the sound of music suddenly enveloped Wieland, who admitted he didn't know that was his ringtone. And he wasn't totally sure how to answer the phone even after snapping it open.

All that really mattered, however, was that Graffis was on the other end, giving the group the go-ahead to spend the funds to hire Rekas as a consultant for three months (pending the completion of a background check), beginning May 1.

"He (Graffis) said we can write a check tomorrow," Wieland told the group, which burst into applause before the phone call even ended.

"I think we got support from above on that one," board member Jedele interjected, calling it a "magic moment."

Wieland breathed a sigh of relief that he didn't drop the fateful call.

"Maybe in honor of this moment, I'll keep my phone on," he smiled.

The importance of bringing Rekas on board at $2,500 a month for three months is considered key to developing operating principles, creating bylaws and establishing committees like fundraising, outreach and financial.

Rekas will also help organizers set up guidelines to determine who they will help and how they will help the homeless, as well as "to clarify our mission in fine detail," Bob Sedlack said.

While the decision on the United Way funds was easily the highlight of the 45-minute meeting, other noteworthy milestones were also achieved by the group.

Homeless Solutions Inc. has agreed to target Oct. 1 as the potential date for reopening. Originally it was suggested that reopening on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 9 closing seemed appropriate, but that was considered a little too ambitious at this point in the reopening process.

The group also established an 11-member board of directors after considering several candidates brought forward by a Nominating Committee.

The inaugural board of directors will include Alan Barber, David English, Bob Jedele, Ann Newton, Gary Lemon, Jerry Lewis, Heather Poynter, Ruth Ralph, Bob Sedlack, Beth Tharp and Wieland.

Homeless Solutions Inc. has also officially incorporated with the Indiana Secretary of State's Office, acquired an employer identification number, and received permission for United Way to serve as the group's fiscal agent until the organization secures a bank account locally.

If someone wants to make a donation to the homeless shelter, they can by marking it for Homeless Solutions Inc. and sending or delivering the check to the United Way.

The group also agreed, at the suggestion of John Dittmer, to establish a support group of "friends" not unlike the Friends of the Park or Friends of the Library organizations to assist the homeless board and the shelter. Dittmer and fellow Steering Committee member Walker Gilmer will help guide that group.

At some point, Dittmer said, a public information meeting will be scheduled so that residents who would like to be involved can have a chance to do so.

The next meeting of the Homeless Solutions group will be held at a date and time to be determined the week of May 14.

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