Homeless choir gives men and women a voice

About 75 people come to church each week to sing with Matthew's Voices. (WTHR)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Every Sunday at Roberts Park United Methodist Church in downtown Indianapolis, people use music to escape. The songs they sing may not be performance-ready or award-winning, but that's not the point. The men and women, who show up week after week, are homeless.

"They come in here, maybe with things on their hearts and on their minds, and then we get to spend an hour with one another just relaxing in song," said Jason Fishburn.

Fishburn started Matthew's Voices in 2016. A handful of people showed up on that first Sunday. Now, about 75 people come to the church each week to sing after eating a hot meal.

"I can remember the first time I came to Roberts Park," said Ron House. "I hadn't sang in 17 to 18 years."

Ron House hadn't sang in nearly two decades when he joined Matthew's Choir. (WTHR)
Ron House hadn't sang in nearly two decades when he joined Matthew's Choir. (WTHR)

For years, singing brought House joy. He even studied music at Indiana University under Camilla Williams. She was the first African-American woman to sing with a major opera company in the United States. Music motivated House until drugs warped his memory and silenced his voice.

"I just stopped singing because there wasn't anything to sing about or sing to or sing for," he said.

House went from working as a recruiter for companies in downtown Indy to living on the street and in shelters. He was homeless and in a downward spiral.

"I began to think that I wasn't worthy of returning to society," House said. "It took me coming to that church there by accident."

A lovely lady, as Ron describes her, handed him a hot meal and told him when he finished he should head upstairs and sing for an hour. They had no idea House knew how to sing, but they got an idea pretty quickly as soon as he remembered his talent.

"I was like wow," said Fishburn. "What a voice!"

"It's because of them that I got to sing again," said House. "My mom heard me sing in that church for the first time. She said I hadn't heard you sing for 17 years."

Matthew's Choir was started in 2016. (WTHR)
Matthew's Choir was started in 2016. (WTHR)

House said Matthew's Voices changed his life forever.

"Brought me back from the downward spiral I was going in," he said. "I got my voice back."

Matthew's Voices meets every Sunday at 1 p.m. at Roberts Park United Methodist Church. Soup's On is also housed in the basement of Roberts Park. Every Sunday, volunteers serve meals to about 250 people between 10 a.m. - 2 p.m and have been since 1999.

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