Most members of the community are familiar with the great work Housing Opportunities (HO) and Project Neighbors (PN) do for the people of Valparaiso and surrounding towns. Their most recent project, Park Place, is currently under way, attracting hundreds of volunteers from the community.
Last year, an opportunity to purchase what was formerly the Sun Appliance building at 117 North Calumet presented itself to PN. A purchase agreement was made in which HO would fund the project while PN would manage the volunteers during construction.
After seeing the impact made by PN’s previous project, Neighbor’s Place, Executive Director Paul Schreiner was excited to start another project. His original thought was to create housing for men in need; however, the city was not receptive to the idea. Eager to start construction nonetheless, Schreiner and a team of volunteers began building in the third week of May.
Valparaiso University’s chapel-based service group Brothers Reaching Out (BRO) was the first team to join in the effort. They have returned each weekend since with 5-15 guys, occasionally bringing a sorority with them to pitch in. Other university groups, churches, businesses, and individuals were quick to contribute their time to the creation of something invaluable to the community.
Trinity Lutheran Church has frequently sent volunteers over to Park Place. Jonathan Young, who recently moved back to Valparaiso, was eager to help when he could.
“It is a way for me to give back to the community,” said Young. “I recently moved back here to take care of my mom and I joined Trinity Lutheran Church. They are very active. I volunteer at the men’s shelter, and this was a really neat opportunity to help the women. Valparaiso at large, it seems to me, turns a blind eye to the transit community. We only have temporary programs available for people. For me, the idea of restoring one’s dignity is to have a place for their own. From there, you can feel safe and secure at night, and the next day you can find that job or handle that crisis. That’s only if you aren’t dealing with the question of where you are going to sleep.”
Many other volunteers like Young have been touched by the mission of Park Place, and part of this is due to weekly updates.
Schreiner said, “Every Sunday, I write an update that says, ‘Here’s what happened this week. Here’s a cute story about so-and-so. Here’s what we are doing next week, and here’s a schedule. I hope to see you there.’ I think it’s really important that we keep people informed that [construction] is still going on.”
Once completed, Park Place will offer fifteen women a fresh start. Each room has a private bathroom, kitchenette, and natural light. There will also be a community room with a TV, laundry facilities, and a garden that will replace the lot behind the current building. The building will remain locked at all times, with a system that allows the residents to buzz in a guest from their bedroom if need be.
Schreiner said, “When we opened Neighbor’s Place, the number of women sleeping on the floor of churches significantly reduced. We had homeless people that now had a home. [Park Place] is a practical solution. It is not abusive to live in one of these places. It is comfortable. It is secure.”
HO will also provide case management, credit repair and counseling, life skills, psychosocial referrals, education services, food pantry services, substance abuse referrals, employment services, job training, and rental counseling for the residents.
HO Chief Executive Caroline Shook said, “Currently there are many single women who are homeless in our community. Fifteen of them will be able to call Park Place a home in the near future.”
You can donate to the Park Place funding campaign at https://razo.io/12Bie4.
If you are interested in volunteering during construction, contact Charles Snyder at email@example.com. Shifts are available 8-12, Tuesdays-Saturdays.