In January 2014, the State of Indiana conducted a point-in-time count of the homeless population in our state. The startling results illustrate the effects of high unemployment, mental illness and domestic abuse on Hoosiers. Almost 6,000 men, women and children were found to be homeless, including 710 veterans and 1,277 children under the age of 18.

The silver lining of the report was that 93% of these citizens had found temporary shelter in safe havens, shelters and transitional housing programs. The Salvation Army’s presence in all 98 Indiana counties gives us the unique opportunity to help homeless individuals and families in every corner of the state. Even in counties without a physical Salvation Army building, our Service Extension representatives are still able to connect residents with services and financial assistance.

The Salvation Army works with local organizations to get the homeless in our communities the help they desperately need. Feeding programs, food pantries and coat drives at the Corps Community Centers help to address physical needs, while case managers and counselors provide emotional and spiritual support and guidance.

In several communities, including Lafayette, Frankfort and New Albany, the local Salvation Army operates its own shelter or transitional housing. After house fires and natural disasters, families left homeless often find hope and relief when their local Salvation Army provides the funds for temporary housing until they can get back on their feet.

One of many encouraging murals on the walls of the Ruth Lilly Women & Children's Center

One of many encouraging murals on the walls of the Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center

In Indianapolis, 2,205 women and children found shelter and sanctuary at The Salvation Army Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center last year. Located in downtown Indianapolis on a property dubbed the “Block of Hope,” this shelter offers more than just a warm bed and hot meal. It helps women transition to self-sufficiency and independence through job training, case management and special programs. The on-site childcare center frees them to pursue new job opportunities while saving earnings for their families’ futures. A special domestic violence unit protects women fleeing abuse and helps them find safe paths forward.

This month, a new program was launched to help support the children who arrive at the Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center traumatized, fearful, and owning just the clothes on their backs. Project Blessing Bags invites companies and groups to fill special totes with items of comfort for these children. New books, snuggly stuffed animals and blankets, personal care items and more help to ease this difficult transition.

Thrivent Financial partnered with The Salvation Army to build the first 24 Blessing Bags. They turned the project into a fun teambuilding event, shopping for items and then tying homemade fleece blankets during a training seminar. Some members of the Thrivent team were also able to visit the shelter on a Salvation Army Tour of Hope, witnessing first-hand the great need and comfort of the Blessing Bags.

From children in our shelters to veterans visiting our soup kitchens, The Salvation Army is working to ease the burdens facing our homeless population. When you volunteer with and donate to The Salvation Army, you ensure that we can continue to change lives and create brighter futures for Hoosiers for years to come. Thank you!