VALPARAISO | A team of volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work cleaning up a building to house a new day center for homeless women.
The Dayspring Homeless Women's Center is set to open Oct. 15. It is located in the building vacated by the Head Start program, behind Porter County Aging & Community Services, 1005 N. Campbell St.
Dayspring Director Rachel Niemi said the center will serve women who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or transitioning out of homelessness. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
An estimated 20 to 25 women are expected to use Dayspring by the end of the year, and child care will be provided. Lunch will be served, and women will have access to showers and lockers.
Basic programming includes counseling and connection with agencies in the community that specialize in housing, health care, mental health and employment.
Women will be asked to build their life skills by performing chores such as making lunches and washing dishes. Computers will be available to write resumes and conduct job searches.
“The goal is to move them from surviving to self-sustaining,” Niemi said.
The program emphasizes personal responsibility, self-direction, empowerment, hope and respect, along with encouraging women to take ownership of the process.
“Essentially, it will be about them setting their own goals,” Niemi said. “Whatever goals they set, we'll hold them to, but the more they can embrace the change, the better it will be.”
Niemi, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, previously worked with families at the Porter County Family Counseling Center and homeless veterans at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis.
She is Dayspring's only staff member, but more than $100,000 in grants are being sought to increase staffing and hours of operation.
The center is in need of volunteers to serve as greeters, receptionists, lunch providers, cleaners, child care workers and chaplains. Training will be provided, Niemi said.
“Volunteers will be a crucial piece of this,” she said.
Dayspring is an outgrowth of the Open Arms Women's Shelter Program, which provides overnight shelter to women from Oct. 15 through April 15. The program involves hundreds of volunteers, six Valparaiso churches and the Reiner Community Center.
Those who use Open Arms will be required to attend the Dayspring program.