Vacant IPS building set to become overflow shelter for homeless

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A partnership between Indianapolis Public Schools and the city is set to turn an old school building into overflow housing for people who are homeless.

Susan R. Leach School 68 will be open to women, children and their families in the winter months if all other city facilities are at capacity.

Donald Kuhn has lived in his east side home, near the former school, since 1971. Over time, he’s seen neighbors come and go and a nearby school close.

“Not too much goes around here. It’s pretty quiet,” Kuhn said.

But lately, he says he’s noticed a little more life in the old school building down the street.

“I figured something was going on. I just didn’t know what,” he said.

Plans are in place to use the vacant building as an overflow homeless shelter from December through April.

“I guess it’s better than having a prison next door,” Kuhn said.

While Kuhn is happy people will be helped there, he worries about the impact a shelter might have on his neighborhood.

“It could,” he said. “I’ll put it that way. It could cause issues. Whether they let it cause issues will be something else.”

Letting things get out of hand doesn’t seem to be part of the plan. For starters, the site will have 24-hour staffing by Wheeler Mission with custodial workers and security contracted through the city.

People can only stay there if they have a referral and are screened by Wheeler Mission staff. The shelter will only be open to women and children. Men can’t stay at the school unless they’re with their family.

A 9:30 pm curfew will be enforced, with some exceptions for work schedules. People staying at the shelter can’t bring drugs or alcohol, and all of their personal items will be inspected.

Kevin Price, who also lives near the school, thinks it’s a great use of the old building. Price was once homeless himself.

“I’ve been there before. It might have been a while ago, but I was there and it’s not a good place,” he said.

Price is proud to be back on his feet and says he knows sometimes others need a push. If the empty school building can provide that, he hopes city leaders make it happen.

“If anybody can help, I wish they would. Everybody should help and if you can, please do it,” Price said.

People staying at the shelter will have access to case managers as well as employment and housing services. The goal is to help them transition into permanent housing.

IPS board members are expected to vote on and approve the plan Thursday.