NewsLocal News / July 28, 2020

Community Partners Not Happy With Reuben Engagement Center Decision

Community Partners Not Happy With Reuben Engagement Center Decision

City officials cut the ribbon at the opening of the Reuben Center. (File photo)

The Reuben Engagement Center, REC, will not re-open at its original location after changes made during the pandemic.  The REC offers a place where people experiencing homelessness and who are suffering from addiction may recieve detox and other substance abuse and mental health services. 

The City of Indianapolis recently announced plans to restart services at hotel rooms the city has been offering to more vulnerable people during the pandemic to avoid congregate housing. The city says this is a safer option than that provided at the original Reuben location attached to a downtown jail. A press release also cites poor ventilation in the building. 

Executive Director Sandy Jeffers says moving people to these hotel rooms on the far west side of Indianapolis makes no sense. She says there are an increasing number of people experiencing homelessness and suffering from substance use disorders that need the original, successful REC. 

"Reuben opened in 2017 after years of research and visits to similar programs," said Jeffers in an email. "The center shelters 42 men and eight women per night and is open year round."

In a press release Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett acknowleged homeless neighbors have experienced hardship during the pandemic.

"Which has our city agencies and community partners thinking outside the box to address their short- and long-term needs,” he said. 

Jeffers started a petition to reopen the center.  She said the hotel rooms are not a good place for someone in crisis. 

"Clients with mental health issues deteriorate in isolation," Jeffers said. She said the city did not work with all of its partners before making decisions. 

Pastor Davide Greene is council co-chair of the governing board of the Indianapolis Continuum of Care, a community-based collaborative involved in making decisions about city efforts to end homelessness. He said the council only had one meeting about REC, and is worried the new hotel location will further disparity. 

"Since REC has moved out by the airport, it is highly likely that fewer African Americans will be able to take advantage of the facility," Greene said in written comments. "Ultimately, this means that African Americans will end up in jail and not receiving mental health services."

The city says it is taking steps to safely make REC services available at the city’s new Assessment and Intervention Center.

The AIC is scheduled to open later this year at the new Community Justice Campus on the east side. 

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