When Evansville Rescue Mission executives and staff gathered on Oct. 19 to break ground on the nonprofit’s new center for women and children at 1400 Professional Blvd., it represented a significant milestone for Evansville. As the first facility offering programming expressly dedicated to women and children, ERM officials wanted the center to get a strong start and research how local residents’ needs can best be met.
“We visited a lot of homeless shelters around the country when we were deciding how we’d build ours. We went to the Orlando Rescue Mission in Florida, a shelter in Oklahoma City, a shelter in Fort Wayne, the Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children in Indianapolis — placed that had already successfully developed centers for women and children — and learned from them. We asked tough questions and said, give us advice and ideas, so we don’t make the same mistakes. That, I feel, has been very, very helpful. We really did learn from them,” says Evansville Rescue Mission CEO Tracy Gorman.
The 42,600-square-foot Susan H. Snyder Center for Women and Children will offer 125-140 beds, with 2-3 beds per room. In addition to space for programming such as budgeting and parenting classes, wrap-around services, and a playground, the facility features plans for a commercial kitchen. Set up like a standard in-home kitchen, the kitchen will host demonstrations for residents to learn how to cook on in-home appliances and then practice on individual stations. The teaching kitchen aligns with ERM’s needs-based services and timeline for residents.
“Four years ago, we moved away from being a time-based shelter to being more focused on goals and objectives being met, case management, life plan development. As long as they’re working on goals and objectives, they can stay with us. It may be six months; it may be two years,” Gorman adds.
The building also will house a leadership and resource center for ERM’s executive staff, which currently leases office space across from the men’s shelter on Walnut Street. Should the women’s and children’s center’s needs evolve, and its services expand, the executive team’s office can be converted into ministry space.
“Even with the Center for Women and Children, other shelters that provide emergency shelter will still be necessary, because we won’t be able to provide nearly all the beds required in this city,” Gorman says. “Those shelters will play a huge role, and we’ll partner with them. It’s commendable; we all want to give people a safe place to stay.”
The Safe & Sound capital campaign for the center has reached $6.2 million of its $9 million goal. Gorman estimates construction of the LA+D-designed facility will be completed during the first quarter of 2025.