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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, September 06, 2017 1:00 am

Group to raise funds for shelter

Friends of Shepherd's House looking to pull in $500,000

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

An advocacy organization aims to raise nearly $500,000 for Shepherd's House, a faith-based shelter for homeless military veterans that nearly lost its federal funding for fiscal 2018.

Friends of Shepherd's House will give details on its fundraising, public awareness and government relations campaign at a Sept. 13 news conference.

Alex Wulpi, spokesman for Friends of Shepherd's House, said Tuesday the shelter's future is not assured just because it received a short-term funding reprieve from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wulpi pointed out that a VA grant extension covers existing residents at the 40-bed shelter but not future residents.

“In addition to the actual fundraising, we have to work against the current public opinion, which is that the problem has been solved, which is not the case at all,” he said in a telephone interview.

The shelter along Tennessee Avenue near Spy Run Avenue has been receiving about $496,000 a year from a VA grant awarded in 2009, with the money accounting for 80 percent of the Shepherd's House annual budget.

Wulpi said Friends of Shepherd's House has about a dozen core members who have been meeting weekly since early August, when it appeared Shelter's House would lose its VA money.

“Most of the people involved with us have done veterans fundraisers before or nonprofit fundraising in general. But it's just a lot of great people who really care about this cause,” said Wulpi, president of the IPFW Student Veterans Association. He was a Marine Corps. infantry squad leader from 2008 to 2013.

Friends of Shepherd's House said in a news release that it “plans on organizing and executing several high-profile fundraisers in the months to come.”

Shepherd's House last month was given a 1-year extension of its VA funds after being told earlier that its grant application had been rejected. VA is terminating all grants offered through its Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program and required recipients to apply for performance-based yearly grants in various housing categories.

Besides providing temporary housing, Shepherd's House offers addiction treatment services to homeless veterans.

Although VA has said it intends to begin emphasizing permanent housing for its homeless providers grant program, Shepherd's House co-founder Barb Cox told The Journal Gazette in August that Shepherd's House will remain a transitional shelter where residents can stay up to 24 months and where drug and alcohol consumption is prohibited.

Wulpi said Cox and her husband, shelter co-founder Lonnie Cox, “have run this faith-based organization for the last 20 years and have seen great success. So they don't want to change up what they see as a working model just so they can get this (VA) money. They would consider it selling their souls.”

He said Friends of Shepherd's House has been in contact with the offices of Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Todd Young, R-Ind., and that Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, “is really on board with what we're trying to do, and he's doing what he can from his end.”

Banks, a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin in July seeking an explanation for the agency's original decision to deny funds to Shepherd's House.

bfrancisco@jg.net