The PourHouse Helps People Off the Streets & Into Homes
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer / Jamie Sangar
There’s a special group of people giving folks on the streets a second chance. Andrea De Mink, founder of the PourHouse, meets up with people who have no home, listens to their stories, establishes their needs and points them in the right direction to get the services for which they qualify. She begins the conversation with each person by offering the simplest gesture — pouring a cup of hot coffee.
For more than 20 years, as part of her community outreach work, De Mink has been hosting Community Gatherings serving up that cup of hot coffee, providing food, basic necessities and onsite case management every Wednesday and Sunday in one of Indy’s downtown parks. She started it on the side. When the need grew, she founded PourHouse a little over 13 years ago. She does it with one goal in mind: to befriend and help the people on the streets. Many come to meet her because they’ve heard of her by word of mouth.
As De Mink talks to each one of them, she determines their needs. Most are hoping they qualify for government housing. But all receive a dog tag, a first step in restoring their identity, and some put their names on a waiting list for possible placement in subsidized housing.
The wait to find out about housing can be agonizing. Each applicant in the city is screened per HUD guidelines, including determination of chronic homelessness, length of time on the streets and various barriers, including mental health, addiction and physical health. Each Friday, some chosen lucky ones are greeted by the PourHouse Welcome Home team to move into their new place.
“As soon as Andrea calls us to tell us the names of the people moving in, we spring into action,” says Tammy Terry, leader of the PourHouse Welcome Home Team. “Each person gets a laundry basket filled with food, hygiene products, household products and more.”
As the day progresses, furniture arrives, and soon, the place begins looking like home.
“Everything is donated,” Terry adds. “From the furniture all the way down to the toothbrush and toothpaste.”
Four years ago, something happened creating a game changer for the Welcome Home Team. Changes to selection criteria for HUD funded permanent supportive housing opened the door for more PourHouse clients to access housing. The emphasis shifted to highly vulnerable clients with long-term chronic status. Since the PourHouse specializes in engaging individuals who qualified, it opened the door for more people to access housing.
The news was a miracle to the people she’d befriended on the streets. So, De Mink’s sister, Brigitte Johnson, began spreading the word to her neighbors that donations were needed to help people move in to their new homes.
Many of her neighbors, including Terry, responded generously. Terry and Johnson began organizing the laundry baskets to prepare for move in. That’s when the Welcome Home Team was officially formed. Then, neighbors began donating furniture, money and time volunteering. The operation grew so big, more of Johnson’s friends, Tracy Lingle, Carol Rice and Amy MacNeil, joined the team.
“We’re just four Geist moms trying to make a small difference,” Lingle says. “Being out on the streets could happen to any of us. Everyone deserves a second chance, and we want to help make that happen.”
Lingle, who quit her nursing job to devote more time to the PourHouse Welcome Home Team, says her nursing background always kicks in with the people.
The PourHouse has experienced phenomenal growth. Since the Welcome Home Team began the move-ins almost three years ago, the team has moved in more than 400 people. They continue to move-in about three to eight residents every Friday.
De Mink and her team’s work doesn’t stop there. Their measure of success is keeping the people off the streets, and they’ve delivered. PourHouse has a more than 90 percent success rate, with only 10 percent of the people returning to the streets. That includes many of the most challenging types of cases like addiction and serious family issues.
As successful as the Welcome Home Team has become, they need more help.
Volunteers from Soma Midtown Church help with heavy furniture once a month, but the Welcome Home Team could use the help of more volunteers. Donations of personal hygiene items, furniture and other household items are always appreciated. But, the Welcome Team says they’re in desperate need of a volunteer with a truck, van or trailer to help with Friday morning move-ins. Their current trailer provides space to accommodate just three move-ins, and the group needs to do more than that as the weather turns colder.
Check the Facebook page for information about the latest requested items. If you have items to donate or you’re able to volunteer your time, contact Tammy Terry at email@example.com.