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Mixed reactions from neighbors as former Indianapolis Public Schools building set to become overflow shelter for homeless

A proposal slates the building for housing women, children and families between December and April.

INDIANAPOLIS — An east side community is raising concerns after Indianapolis Public Schools agreed to transform one of its buildings into a shelter for Hoosiers needing help this winter.

On Tuesday, the school district announced it had reached a deal with the city to let them temporarily use the Susan R. Leach School near 21st Street and Emerson Avenue.

“My dad raised us here on this street,” said Christina Hawkins, standing on North Riley Avenue in the city’s Otterbein neighborhood.

Hawkins still lives there, right down the street from IPS School 68 where she went to school. 

“This is home,” she said. 

Hawkins and a handful of others are concerned about the now-empty school becoming home for some of the city’s homeless this winter. 

“We’re just worried about the safety. We’re worried about the neighborhood,” said Hawkins.

Some residents said the neighborhood already doesn’t get enough help for some of its issues, without adding more people into the mix. 

“Almost every night, you hear a lot of guns going off,” said Cathy Hayes, who has lived here for 30 years. 

Hayes also pointed to the condition of the school grounds. 

“These bushes been on that fence for three years," she said. "Nothing's been done."

“First of all, take some pride in the property, if they’re going to be coming here and staying,” said Hawkins. 

“I really think the community will come around and be on board and be glad that it’s being used instead of another empty building,” said Deb Hall, who also lives in the area and is a part of the Otterbein Neighborhood Association. 

That’s why Hall spoke in favor of the proposal at Tuesday’s executive session of the IPS school board, where more details of the plan were released. 

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

According to the proposal, those who stay at School 68 will need a referral and need to be screened by Wheeler Mission staff, who will be on site 24 hours a day and run day-to-day operations. No walk-ins will be allowed. 

The city will provide on-site custodial and security services.

A 9:30 p.m. curfew will be enforced, with exceptions for people coming in late because of work. No drugs or alcohol will be allowed, and rooms are subject to inspections. 

Residents will have access to case managers, as well as employment and housing support services. The goal is to help them find permanent housing. 

The city will take control of the property in its current state and be responsible for any damage, but IPS will be responsible for the structural and mechanical systems of the building.  

“Now that we know it’s going to be very well secured and very well managed, I think it’s going to be a plus for the neighborhood,” said Hall. 

Hawkins hopes so.

“That’s fine with that, but make the neighborhood a priority,” said Hawkins, who added she would consider volunteering to help at the shelter once it’s up and running.

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