- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - It started with a house fire.

With most of their possessions destroyed and no savings to fall back on, Diane and Adam Minnick and their granddaughter, Kendra, spent a year living day by day. The family moved from one relative’s home to another, never staying in one place very long.

Adam, a veteran of the Gulf War, was unemployed, and his addiction to alcohol worsened the longer the family remained homeless. The couple’s marriage was at a breaking point.

Without the structure of a permanent home, Diane watched her 4-year-old granddaughter grow agitated. Kendra would lash out at her grandmother, and seemed to regress in her childhood development.

“It wasn’t very stable at all, and it was causing a lot of chaos for her,” Diane said. “It was starting to really scare me.”

Diane, Adam and Kendra moved into New Hope Family Shelter in February 2014 after a year without stable housing. Within two weeks, Adam found a job in a fast food restaurant. New Hope employees directed him to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which provides housing vouchers and case management services to homeless veterans.

“It gave us stability so we could breathe instead of wondering next week where are we going to stay,” Adam said. “It gave us a chance to be somewhere without spending everything on living.”

Kendra entered New Hope’s Children’s Program, and Diane was able to observe and later model how Emily Pike, director of children’s programming, interacted with her granddaughter.

“I felt safe about Kendra,” Diane said. “That was the most important thing, having just a safe place for her to be.”

The couple took classes at New Hope to learn budgeting skills, and participated in meetings with other families, where they discussed how being homeless impacted every aspect of their lives. Diane and Adam developed strong friendships with their roommates and neighbors, are still in contact with many former or current New Hope residents.

“We call that New Hope magic,” said Elaine Guinn, executive director of New Hope Family Shelter.

On April 1, 2014, the Minnicks moved into their HUD-VASH apartment, where they are still living more than a year later. Adam has since started a new job, and has been sober for about a year. He and Diane have legal guardianship of Kendra. Kendra, now age 5, still participates in the Children’s Program, and Diane volunteers regularly at the shelter.

“When I get here, I don’t want to leave,” Diane said. “This is like my family. I respect them as my family. They will always be part of my life, because they were there when the rest of my family was just knocking me on my head.”

New Hope is celebrating its fourth anniversary Saturday with the opening of its third shelter at 303 West Second Street. The approximately $38,000 project took about a year and a half to complete.

The first January day in 2014 when volunteers began work inside the shelter, a Polar Vortex had caused temperatures to drop to 10 degrees. Inside the shelter, it was closer to zero.

“We had to just tear everything out,” said Judy Downey, owner of JLC Designs, who volunteered as the shelter’s interior designer.

New Hope volunteers, who have dubbed themselves the “hope builders,” replaced the mold-ridden home’s new roof, windows and flooring, installed new heating, ventilating, air conditioning and plumbing, and painted the walls a pastel yellow.

“A lot of places just provide housing. New Hope actually gets people back on their feet,” said Steve Dyer, a hope builder and member of New Hope’s board of directors. “To me, this is a solution. It’s not just treating the symptom.”

Over the past four years, New Hope has provided shelter to 107 adults and 106 children, Guinn said. The newest shelter, once a duplex, now has four bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen. The house can accommodate up to four families.

“They gave us hope,” Diane said. “It feels wonderful to know someone else will feel the same joy we did to have a safe place.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1THzhmK

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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