The United Caring Shelters, Inc. (UCS) began in June 1991 thanks to the mission-minded willingness of Bethel United Church of Christ Sunday school class who wanted to serve people in need. Shortly thereafter, UCS opened a day shelter at St. Anthony’s Family Life Center and served about 25 to 30 people two meals a day. An emergency night shelter was added for single men with 12 bunk beds in an area of Emmanuel Lutheran. We added laundry facilities when we realized that this helped men and women save money in order to pay for the main necessities in life.
In 1996, UCS bought an abandoned brick warehouse on 6th street. This building was four stories and had a basement. It was close to the main bus terminal and the services for employment, social service agencies, and government offices that assist the homeless and needy in our area. Volunteers remodeled the first floor in seven months. It soon turned into a one-of-a-kind day shelter for the community. We are the only local shelter to offer laundry and shower facilities and allow the use of the shelter address to people who need to use it for job applications, social security disability benefits and so that their family can keep in contact with them. We currently assist 157 people a day in the Day Shelter.
The second floor provides a safe haven for up to 56 men to sleep from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. There are bunk beds in a dorm-type atmosphere. We have a curfew at night and a wake-up service for those who need to get to work on time in the morning.
For twenty years, the third and fourth floors had been Transitional Housing but in 2017, in order to provide more permanent solutions to those experiencing homelessness, these units became low-income, permanent housing offering even greater stability and opportunities for self-sufficiency. Each studio apartment has a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living area, and guests have access to onsite supportive services.
In November of 2011 UCS opened an Emergency Night Shelter for single women. This program was located off-campus in the former St. Anthony Convent at First Avenue and Columbia. On December 19th, 2012 the Board of Directors of United Caring Shelters and Ruth’s House approved a merger. The Ruth’s House facility became the new home of the UCS Women’s Emergency Shelter Program on January 1st, 2013. Ruth’s House continues to offer Services and Shelter to up to 24 single Homeless Women.
On July 31, 2013, United Caring Shelters announced, after a yearlong evaluation, they would rename the organization and do business as United Caring Services. The UCS Board of Directors agreed a name change would best reflect the growth of the organization and the movement to fulfilling the vision of ending dependence and creating a Community of Caring.
In November 2014, we opened up the community’s first and only Homeless Medical Respite Program (HMRP) with 6 beds for men in partnership with Deaconess then expanded those services by 4 beds to meet the needs of women in 2017. Jason Emmerson became UCS’s Executive Director in 2015 and helped it grow for 7 years. He provided financial expertise, visionary leadership, and the kind of personality that led people and systems to say “yes” to supporting UCS’s mission. Jason also primed the pump so UCS can move into the future with energy and passion.
Fast forward to 2020-2021: UCS leadership began seeking further expansion of services to meet the needs of people who suffer from intoxication, substance use, and/or co-occurring mental health challenges. With the addition of a recuperative care service and the expansion of the current respite program, UCS would be able to address the root causes of these barriers and divert people away from hospitals, EMS, and incarceration and toward supportive, stabilizing services.
Today, in 2022, the staff and board at UCS continue working to maintain the vital services our programs provide. The opening of the Diversion Center is upon us in the near future. It will not only provide a path to health for those experiencing addiction and mental health challenges, but will also allow our community service providers an alternative to jail or the emergency room. This alternative will ultimately save taxpayer’s money.
In addition, our good neighbors, Zion United Church of Christ, have graciously “gifted” their parsonage to UCS. This generous transaction will establish what we believe to be Evansville’s first effort at Shared Housing for 5 men; getting 5 men off the streets and into supportive housing.
Lastly, UCS is looking at ways to develop property on Cherry Street adjacent to Ruth’s House, the Women’s Night Shelter. There will be more to report on that in 2023. Stay tuned as UCS continues to add to the story of providing values-based, low barrier, sustainable, and high-quality homeless shelters, services, and solutions.