Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization, will build a new home. The center has been housed in an old IPS school building on the near eastside since 1987. The new building will allow the organization to expand services.
Last year Damien served more than 5,700 clients, twice the number it served five years ago. Damien Center President and CEO Alan Wichey said that growth comes with some pain.
"When you start getting practical about how are we going to provide these services and where we are going to provide these services, suddenly this barrier of space becomes enormous," Witchey said.
The center kicked off a $4 million campaign to build the new headquarters. It's supported by a $500,000 gift from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. The Damien Center said the new space will include a larger Damien Cares clinic with multiple exam rooms, new dental and vision services, a lab, and an expanded food pantry and pharmacy. It will also enable the organization to expand current youth programming, housing, prevention, and harm reduction programs and introduce more new programs and services.
Marion County was targeted as an HIV hotspot by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2018. Since then Damien has increased staff from 40 to 150.
"And now we have staff in the hallways and several staff in each room, and knowing that there’s so many times when we need to meet privately with a client or a patient," Witchey said.
The new building, at the corner of East Washington Street and Oriental Avenue, will be adjacent to the existing Damien Center, which will remain in use.
Construction is expected to begin next spring and be completed by the end of 2024.
Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.