December 9, 2009 // Local

In celebration: A journey from a shelter to a village

FORT WAYNE — Vincent Village celebrated 20 years of providing shelter, services and affordable housing for homeless families on Dec. 2, with an open-house celebration at 2827 Holton Ave. Bishop John M. D’Arcy participated in the brief ceremony and tours were provided for interested guests of many of the Village’s affordable homes.

“More than 600 families have come through the front door of Vincent House seeking shelter,” said Ann Helmke, director. In 1989, Vincent House was the only organization providing shelter for homeless families with an emphasis on keeping families together during the crisis of homelessness, she continued.

Bishop D’Arcy was instrumental in establishing the transitional shelter for homeless families after learning of the need in the Fort Wayne area. When he was an auxiliary bishop in Lowell, Mass., Bishop D’Arcy was involved in the initiation of a center for the homeless there under the titled of St. Vincent House.

Twenty years after opening the doors to homeless families, Vincent Village continues its mission. In the past two years Vincent Village has seen record numbers of homeless families waiting to get into a shelter. “This is indeed a tragic situation as we embark upon the coldest season of the year, added Helmke. Expanding services over the years to meet the needs of the families living in the shelter Vincent Village has increased the number of families that can be helped.

In 1995 Vincent Village began rehabilitating vacant abandoned houses in the neighborhood and transformed 28 of these houses into attractive affordable homes for working families. This effort has created a safe and supportive community.

“Approximately 68 percent of the homeless people coming through the front door of Vincent House are children,” Helmke emphasized. Vincent Village provides comprehensive services for homeless children with tutoring and educational enriching activities while their families are participating in other Vincent Village programs. This program also serves children living in a near-by shelter.

St. Hyacinth Community Center opened in 1999 providing office space for Vincent Village, space for the Literacy Alliance to provide adult education GED classes and Park Center’s counseling and day treatment program for children with emotional challenges. Children’s Cottage expanded child care and early education to include infants and toddlers and a Head Start classroom. Accessible units were added to the shelter in 2001 and the Vincent Village Outlet Store opened in 2003.

“Changing the name from Vincent House to Vincent Village in 2008 reflects the journey to a village as we continue to provide an opportunity for homeless families to stay together, while they move to higher levels of self-sufficiency and into a home in a supportive community. In the homes of Vincent Village, families who were once transient can establish roots and regain the rhythm in their lives,” Helmke concluded.

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