Established in 1990 by a group of concerned citizens, Anchor House was focused on helping homeless people in Jackson County.
Six years later, the organization moved into its own building at 250 S. Vine St., Seymour, which is still used today.
In 2001, the board was struggling to keep an executive director and shifted from serving individuals to helping families with children.
Since then, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry has fulfilled its mission of fostering independence for families while feeding the community.
On Friday, Executive Director Megan Cherry announced Anchor House is working to expand its services this winter to offer a second shelter facility for emergency housing needs for individuals and families in Jackson County.
She said the effort is made possible by a $50,000 COVID-19 Economic Relief Initiative Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. and Indiana United Ways and financial support from the Community Foundation of Jackson County, Royalty Companies and private donors.
Anchor House has adopted the project and facility at 326 Dupont Drive, Seymour, formerly known as Jackson County Toolbox, Cherry said. The new location is projected to be open as soon as possible and by the first quarter of 2021 serve an additional 15 to 20 people.
“We are hoping to help meet the needs of our community during the cold months, as so many of our neighbors have been displaced and left without a home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cherry said.
In addition to the programming expansion, Anchor House will be conducting a feasibility study during the first quarter of this year to evaluate community needs and volunteer and financial support for a more permanent, ongoing solution to help the most vulnerable in Jackson County, Cherry said.
Anchor House will continue to operate its current food pantry program and family shelter on South Vine Street.
In 2015, a grant from the Cummins Foundation allowed the organization to buy nearby apartment buildings and refurbish them so families could have their own space while staying at Anchor House. In September of that year, the first families moved into the apartments, which provided living space for seven homeless families.
Then in May 2016, the main building was renovated to expand the food pantry, remodel the warehouse and create a community room and office space for Anchor House employees.
Families can stay at Anchor House for up to eight weeks. While there, clients take parenting, nutrition and financial stability classes and have access to the food pantry. The staff checks in on the adults to make sure they are working and doing what they need to do to get back on their feet, and they make sure the kids are going to school.
In 2020, the organization provided 284,805 meals and 2,427 nights of housing to Jackson County families, Cherry said.
“As COVID continues to impact the community and increase demand for assistance, Anchor House staff is working to serve more Jackson County households through the winter,” she said.
Cherry said construction is finished on the Dupont Drive building, but they are doing final adjustments to the design and furnishing it.
For the initial opening for emergency nightly housing for the winter months, she expects to house around 15 people. That, however, may vary depending on the pandemic and being able to keep clients and staff safely distanced, she said.
“Long term, we would look to house much more, but we won’t be able to tell exactly how many until we see how the pandemic affects operations and determine how much support we have for the project,” Cherry said.
Anchor House will be hiring staff to supervise the building overnight, and Cherry will be the executive director of both locations.
“I will oversee those staff until funding for a longer term project is secured,” she said. “Details for the long term will be released once the feasibility study is complete and we have funding to have a full opening.”
This is considered an expansion of Anchor House.
“We will have two locations, one mission,” Cherry said.
How to help
Anyone interested in making a donation to support programming and housing this winter, visit anchorhouseshelter.org or facebook.com/ahfamilyassistancecenter.
Other forms of payment may be sent to P.O. Box 765, Seymour, IN 47274 or dropped off at 250 S. Vine St., Seymour.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Anchor House should contact Lindsay Sarver at 812-522-9308.
If you or someone you know (Jackson County resident) is facing homelessness, call 812-522-9308.