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Effort to fight homelessness receives boost

Just five months after its founding, the No Place to Call Home initiative has helped steer 53 people away from homelessness toward a more stable life.

The results have been encouraging, but more families are in need of help, said Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of the United Way of Johnson County and co-chair of the initiative. Last year, the United Way fielded nearly 450 calls from people needing emergency housing or help paying their rent.

In order to help more people, the No Place to Call Home effort needs donations. The campaign received a major boost when a local organization of philanthropic women pledged $10,000. Representatives from 100 Women Who Care presented the United Way of Johnson County with a check for the funds Friday.

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“They’ve made a difference in a short time from what I’ve seen,” said Carol Phipps, a member of 100 Women Who Care and manager of the Interchurch Food Pantry. “There are people who really want to get out of this homeless situation, and this was an opportunity to try to help an organization that is doing that. Not just giving away money, but helping to pull them out so they can have a better future.”

While the donation is a significant contribution to the homelessness initiative, it will have twice the impact, thanks to a matching grant program the United Way is involved in. The agency has received a UnitedIN16 grant, which provides matching funds of up to $143,600 for money that the United Way is able to raise.

That money will go directly toward No Place to Call Home clients, helping them with emergency housing, utility assistance and transportation. That means that 100 Women Who Care’s donation will result in $20,000 going to the homelessness effort, Plake said.

“What we received today is double thanks to that grant,” she said.

100 Women Who Care is comprised of local women whose only mission is contributing money to the agencies that help Johnson County. The concept behind the group is to gather people to informally support the nonprofit work being done in their own communities. Chapters have formed all over the world, including 10 in Indiana.

Each member contributes $500 per year to join. At quarterly meetings, they are presented with three causes. The women vote on which one they want to contribute to. Whichever cause is the winner gets $100 from each woman.

Past recipients of the group have included the Interchurch Food Pantry, Boys & Girls Club of Franklin and Esperanza Ministries.

The group voted in February to choose No Place to Call Home for its first recipient of 2017.

“The women felt that it was an important cause and wanted to give their full support to it,” Phipps said.

No Place to Call Home was launched as a pilot program in October, growing out of nearly two years of research and discussion among community leaders about the best way to approach the homeless issue in Johnson County.

Through grants and donations, organizers were able to take a limited amount of families to test its coordinated approach of multiple different agencies working together on the issue. So far, 16 households have entered into the program, and $16,700 in financial assistance has been provided, Plake said.

Campaign leaders had focused the early part of 2017 on fundraising. The gift from 100 Women Who Care is a significant contribution towards their goal, Plake said.

“It’s an honor to be chosen by 100 women who understand what we’re doing,” she said. “I understand it’s a voting process, so it’s nice to know that there were women there who felt good about the project and had passion for the project.”

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.