The Louisville Rescue Mission has changed its name to Re: Center Ministries and is expanding into Southern Indiana, as well as offering new services for women and children.
The announcement came Tuesday morning at the center, at 733 E. Jefferson St., where the organization houses its main operations. The location in Southern Indiana will not have a shelter, but will have support services, said Cory Bledsoe, executive director of Re: Center Ministries. There will be counseling and case management to help other homeless organizations in Southern Indiana, he said.
“I think in large part it’s really just assessing both sides of the river and saying, ‘What are the needs, and how do we step into them?’ ” he said.
“For Southern Indiana, one of the identified needs was community case management, supported employment types of things and so how do we jump into that space?” Bledsoe said. “And then over here, it’s overnight beds for men and day services, a day shelter, a safe space for women and then women with young children, and you know we have this great facility and how do we maximize it? How do we utilize it in today’s community?”
Re: Center has most recently been the Louisville Rescue Mission and before that it was Jefferson Street Baptist Center. The organization was founded in 1881 by Steve Holcomb, a murderer and riverboat gambler who changed his life when he found religion.
“This new name is a wonderful reflection of our identity as Christians and our new mission statement: Re: Center Ministries reconciles homeless and hurting people to God, family, and community by the power of Christ in partnership with the local church,” said board president David Lewis Jr. “This new name is a wonderful reflection of our identity as Christians and our new mission statement: Re: Center Ministries reconciles homeless and hurting people to God, family, and community by the power of Christ in partnership with the local church.”
Indiana’s homelessness issue
Keeley Stingel, executive director of the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, said that Indiana has in the past relied on Louisville to help solve some of its problems, and now Southern Indiana is stepping up and taking ownership of the homelessness issue. The Coalition for the Homeless in Louisville has been helping her organization learn how to address its issues.
“While it’s a great asset to be so close to a metropolitan area,” Stingel said, “we need to hold our own. So it’s been fantastic in this role. We’re relatively new organization: We were created in 2016, and partnering with the Coalition for the Homeless (Louisville) they have been so instrumental in helping us streamline practices.”
Southern Indiana faces unique challenges in its prevention of homelessness, she said. The area has issues with drug addiction, that is very similar to everywhere else. Southern Indiana’s real estate market is booming while wages stay low, she said. That means that rent continues to climb, and utilities are getting harder to afford.
Millennials and their love of smaller spaces has actually caused more concern for those involved in helping the homeless, she said.
“We are very attractive to millennials, which is such a benefit for our workforce in filling that talent pipeline, but it also poses a challenge,” Stingel said. “I think they’re OK with a tiny home or a starter house. They’re buying up shotgun homes, which used to have very affordable rent. There’s a different market for them now.”
Indiana has a Workforce Ready grant that helps educate people in high-demand, high-paying jobs to help them get on their feet, or as she calls it, “skilling up.”
“That’s a key opportunity there and that’s what we’re really focused on for the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, is connecting individuals to their opportunity and education which is a way out of poverty.”
Rebranding the mission
Lewis said the new name captures the ministry’s hope to see clients experience
deep, internal soul change, and that life changes like addiction recovery, reconciled families, gainful employment, and secure housing would naturally form as ripple effects.
The organization also announced it’s expanding its day center hours for women and children to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, allowing women to come inside with their children and shower, do their laundry check their mail and store belongings.
It will also expand its LifeChange program, which helps men transition from homelessness. There were previously 21 beds for men in the program, and now there are 46 beds. The men in the program must attend classes, chapel, work therapy and counseling, as well as work with a case manager. As they move up through the system, they can eventually stay in campus apartments while they work toward their own stable housing.
Michael Hall, a board member of Re: Center, said he joined the organization after seeing what his friend gained from the LifeChange program.
“My best friend is a graduate of the LifeChange program when it was Jeff Street Center,” Hall said. “So the journey with him, his wife, his children and seeing the impact that a group of people who aren’t just interested in providing relief but building a relationship, to see people thrive and flourish made me want to get involved.”
He said the board and the organization is excited about providing more day services. “We’re really excited to see a place where women and children can come and access services in a safe and clean environment,” Hall said. “As well as the additional beds (for men). Not only is it a need in the community, but I think it will help the success of people who are trying to become free from addiction or any other troubles that they’re trying to work through in their lives, it will help those people have greater success.”
Lewis ended the announcement with a challenge to the local community.
“I want to encourage the city of Louisville and the many communities of Southern Indiana to take notice of the lives that are changing here at Re: Center,” Lewis said. “Because as those lives change, we’re changing families, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, and ultimately our entire community. We invite you to join us. We can’t do it without you.”