Connecting with Community: Horizon House

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Homelessness in Central Indiana is not an invisible issue. But how do we begin to help?

One group offering hope is Horizon House. It's a place where a shelter for a day can lead to stability for a lifetime.

Today is much different for Luwanna Scott than when she first walked into Horizon House 15 years ago. She was homeless and needed help after years of abuse.

"I was at a point where I just gave up," Luwanna Scott said. "I sought help but I began to believe no one really wanted to help me because maybe I wasn't worth it."

But at the check-in desk at Horizon House, Luwanna's life changed when she was offered a coat and a cup of coffee.

"I realized for the first time in 37 years I could not remember anybody asking me what it is that I needed not only that but I didn't have to do anything, I didn't have to appease anybody or degrade myself to receive anything," Scott said.

Executive Director of Horizon House Teresa Wessel says the group provides a safe place for homeless neighbors to begin building their lives.

"The idea is that we want one comprehensive integrated place that individuals can come and take care of all their needs," Wessell said.

Each year nearly 3,400 people are served, but as of this April, Horizon House is already seeing a 7 percent increase compared to last year, including more families and seniors.

"Homelessness is not subject to one class or another, on any given pay period there's at least 10 percent of the Indianapolis workforce that's one paycheck away from the streets," Wessel said.

At Horizon House, showers, laundry facilities and a place to have mail delivered is available. There is also a long term storage area. Horizon House provides employment help, along with health care thanks to fully staffed medical and mental health services located on-site.

"They can have their meds here, labs here and they see the same doctor, the same nurse, the same psychiatrist," Wessel said.  "So helping them overcome those barriers allows them to start working on the next set of barriers, finding a job and finding a place to live."

Horizon House is trying to change the mindset about homelessness.

"Someone could be going through a life-threatening disease and burn through all of their savings; they could have mental health, they could have addiction issues, they could be fleeing domestic violence. There are so many reasons why someone becomes homeless, so not judging someone and truly just helping," Wessel said.

Luwanna hasn't lost sight of the foundation Horizon House gave her 15 years ago.

She's giving back, as pastor of a church, connecting with the homeless to funnel them to resources like Horizon House.

"I situate myself in places where people are in the streets I was delivered from that they might see me as a visible example of yes I can do that and then I can hold them accountable that yes you can," Scott said.