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East Indianapolis neighbors concerned former IPS school will become potential homeless shelter

Wheeler Mission and the City of Indianapolis are looking into alternative homeless shelters as colder temperatures approach, including converting former IPS schools.

INDIANAPOLIS — Preparations are underway to care for more people who don't have a place to live this winter.

Wheeler Mission and the City of Indianapolis are looking into alternative homeless shelters as colder temperatures approach, including converting former IPS schools. However, one neighborhood isn't on board with the plan.

The Susan Roll Leach School in the small east side community is a staple. Neighbors in the Otterbein community near East 21st Street and Emerson Avenue are unhappy with who might be moving in and how they found out.

"Remember the good days about this neighborhood," said Christina Hawkins, who attended the school.

She's lived in the neighborhood for more than two decades and said the now-vacant building and her neighborhood have become an eyesore.

It wasn't until last week Hawkins saw some activity, stopped by and an IPS maintenance worker told her the old school is going to be a homeless shelter. 

"We've seen homeless activity already, and this is just going to bring more," Hawkins said.

Credit: WTHR
The former Susan Roll Leach School at East 21st Street and North Emerson Avenue.

Hawkins said the IPS employee told her the school will operate as an overflow shelter for families from November through April.

"It's very sad that they have money to put in here and help homeless, and I agree with that. I'm not against that, none of us are, but it was the way you went about it, not notifying us and not taking care of our neighborhood when we've asked for it," Hawkins said.

What also concerns her is what neighbors may see because the former elementary school doesn't have showers. 

"They're probably going to rent portable showers and leave them on the parking lot for them to shower in," Hawkins said.

Representatives from Wheeler Mission and the city tell 13News no decision has been made yet on winter contingency shelters for those experiencing homelessness.

Wheeler Mission said, in part, "At this time, a number of options are being evaluated and utilizing former IPS schools is among the various options under consideration."

"I like the east side. We need to bring it back, and that begins with communication. Communication and looking out for one another and I feel like they've let us down on this," Hawkins said.