Effort underway to open homeless shelter in Knox

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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KNOX, Ind. (WNDU) - Homelessness may be more pronounced in larger cities but efforts are now underway to open a shelter in Knox—population 3,500.

You typically don’t see homeless people sleeping in tents, or going through dumpsters in Starke County.

But what they have seen recently, is an offer to donate a building to serve as a homeless shelter in Knox.

“Building gives us a $120,000 dollar head start that we don’t have to raise,” said Matt Ohime with the Starke County Resource Center. “So there’s a growing group of people, it’s actually through the churches, that are excited about partnering together to do something greater for our already great community.”

But opposition seems to be building

In the dense residential neighborhood where the donated building sits.

Albeit opposition to the location of the proposed shelter, not necessarily the concept. “Absolutely not, just not this building. Nope, not that building, not in a residential area. There’s just too many elderly people, have a lot of kids in the area,” said Knox resident Ariel Kring.

“I realize the need to be cared for, and accepted as part of the community, but that comes after the rehabilitation,” advised Knox resident John Turner.

The push for the shelter grew out of stepped up efforts in the schools to identify homeless students. Peggy Shidaker has been the homeless liaison for Knox Community Schools for three years.

“Last year we had one of our senior men came in, one of our senior students. I knew something wasn’t right that day and I asked him what was wrong. Well it was the middle of January, it was a cold night, he slept that night in a car,” Shidaker says.

Shidaker says she has also encountered students sleeping in campers, tents and motels.

According to Ohime between the three Starke County school districts last year 50 homeless students were identified.

Starke County Resource Center will hold a meeting for donors and supporters in late August.

Its petition to rezone the proposed shelter property is still pending before the city Board of Zoning Appeals.

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