HANCOCK COUNTY — Leaders of a Greenfield-based homeless shelter are ramping up efforts to expand their reach beyond Hancock County, starting with changing the name the facility has carried for 25 years.
The Hope House, formerly the Hancock Hope House, has historically offered services to residents of neighboring counties but has struggled to maintain relationships with social service agencies outside the Greenfield area, officials said. Going forward, leaders of the organization located at 35 E. Pierson St. plan to bolster efforts to build relationships with philanthropic organizations, county officials, chambers of commerce and agencies that help people who are homeless in Rush, Shelby and Henry counties.
Newly appointed executive director Andrea Mallory said one of her biggest priorities in her new position, which she took over last fall, is to spread the word that the homeless shelter — which has space for 35 people — serves residents of four area counties, not just Hancock County.
“We are just trying to let people in these counties know that we are here and we are available to help,” she said.
Meanwhile, “Hancock” is slowly disappearing from the organization’s signs and marketing materials.
At the same time, organization leaders want to emphasize the connection between the shelter and the Hope House Thrift Store (also recently renamed from the WEARhouse Thrift Store), which funds 55 percent of the shelter’s $289,000 annual budget, said board of directors president Robb Farris.
People who visit the thrift store often don’t realize it shares space with the county’s sole homeless shelter, and some people who make donations of clothes or other items think they’re going directly to clients of the shelter, rather than to the store’s shelves to be sold, Mallory added.
As the nonprofit works to extend its reach, Mallory is stressing to out-of-county agencies that Hope House has more to offer than a place to sleep. Hope House residents receive help putting together a budget and are required to have a job or be actively searching for employment — all part of an effort to help them become self-sufficient.
But one hurdle remains, said program intake director Chris Wiseman; once Hope House officials have succeeded at educating the public about their mission and their reach, the next big challenge is to secure transportation for individuals in Shelby, Rush and Henry counties to the shelter, Wiseman said.
Most often, church leaders or social workers arrange for people who live outside of Hancock County to be transported to the shelter, but staffers say it’s challenging to connect potential clients with transportation options if they haven’t been working with a church or a social worker.
The first step to solving that problem, however, is to create a larger network of social service agencies that look to the Hope House for help, Mallory said.