About Valpo Shelter
This may be long but crucial in helping learn why this is important and why we need your help. Together we can all be part of the solution.
Valpo Shelter is more than a resource for Valparaiso or Porter County, Indiana. In 2008, Valpo Shelter was created to solve homelessness in Porter County, Indiana in ten years. I find this extremely commendable but also short sided that a problem can be solved in ten years and then forgotten. This isn't a problem with those that started or ran the program as they did so out of the goodness and kindness of their hearts and is what all of us should be doing. Great progress was made but like all projects at the end of thier intended life was left to "die" (my words).
What is Homelessness?
When I first started this my thoughts on homelessness was (1) it was someone else's problem, (2) they lived on the street, and (3) it was their fault or doing that put them there. I can say I was wrong in every way. I want to change and one of the reasons for this site. Below you will find a lot of honesty, possibly too much.
Homeless people are those that have run into a wall in life and need their communities assistance. Not to live off of, but to help them. They've fallen and need empathy and kindness. Not just a handout.
Those that are homeless have:
- Bigger hearts than many of us.
- Most do not want to be homeless.
- 1 in 4 are dealing with some type of mental illness.
- Women that are victims of domestic violence.
- Housing costs are too high (above 30% of their income was spent on housing).
- 81% are male, 29% are female.
- 11% of homeless are veterans (male and female).
- The average age is 45.9.
- Many homeless live in cars, family & friends houses, and motel rooms that are not counted by "the system."
- One homeless person is one too many!
The Original History
From April 17, 2009, to December 28, 2018, Valparaiso Indiana had a plan to end homelessness in Porter County. This was built around a public directory of resources for men and women. The project began through an initiative with Housing Opportunities in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Looking at the original Housing Opportunities site we were able to find this information. (note: I had to remove the three links in the quote below as I wasn't able to find them.) Here is the link to the original PDF I was able to find.
Original Valpo Shelter
This image is the original site for the Valpo Shelter as it's always good to know what started something off as.
Personal Note on Valpo Shelter
I do want to say that even though the original project has died I intend to continue on with it's original goal and expand upon it. I feel God was gracious enough to let it die so that could have a purpose to help out my community around me.
My Take On The Original History
The site died not because of anything the volunteer churches or community members did. They had all the right intentions but no support to keep things moving forward. I believe it would've died a lot sooner if it wasn't for their giving into the project with their time and money. I believe that this failed for a couple of reasons.
- Many in the community didn't know there was a program to help.
- City/town officials never helped promote and champion the system.
From my understanding and what I've been told from those that begin the project they did so with only their money and no money received from city/town governments or even housing opportunities which started the project based on a state mandate to end homelessness in 10-years. It was entirely voluntary by everyone involved and was a half-cocked project from the State of Indiana from those that were part of the project and were kind enough to give me pieces of the history. The only donations were from those that knew of the project.
A New Beginning
Although this wasn't the kickstart (the next paragraph is) my wife and I were talking about a homeless person that walked into Town & Country in Valparaiso, Indiana, on Thanksgiving Day. The person had nowhere to go and had just left Housing Opportunities, which was closed. The staff at Town & Country did their best to help the person and get them shelter and food for the night. This started a conversation that at our dinner table on why a housing safe haven was closed, why there were no resources, and how the community should have something to help. This is where we dropped the ball as our conversation ended. We knew there was a problem but left it for others to decide what to do (without telling them they had this responsibility).
You could rightly say by the grace of God, a higher power, or just plain dumb luck that everything changed the next day. It started when one of my neighbors texted my wife and asked if we were able to pull up the Valpo Shelter site as his phone and computer were pulling up nothing and receiving a "Page Not Found" message in their web browser. They were looking to help a person in need, and they knew of the site and how it could help. This happened around 6 PM on a Friday night, November 26, 2021. Neither my wife nor I were able to pull up the site. Being a marketing person and knowing the internet I did some digging and research. I found out that:
- ValpoShelter.org really was a "thing."
- The first web page I could find was from July 15, 2012.
- It was targeted at helping men and women.
- It was started by Pastor Rich Schmidt of Living Hope Church.
- The research came fast and quick. In about 1.5 hours I had
The site had expired, when I do not know, and was no longer available on the Internet.
Read the archives of what the site was original designed for (helping men and women find shelter).
This help was for homelessness and domestic violence.
This entire process started at helping my neighbor finding a site that no longer existed. It opened my eyes which I believe we all need in life at times. This took a little over an hour to do. Yes, an hour, not hours, days, or weeks. I had no committee beyond asking my wife if it was okay if I took up the cause. She gave a resounding "Yes." In the next two hours I did the following:
- Purchased the domain name.
- Created email.
- Created a website (nothing on it yet).
- Started work on a logo design which I used part of a stock vector image on one of our royalty free image sites we use.
- Designed a color and branding sheet so we could have some consistency.
- Setup a Facebook page and initial graphics.
- Started the site as one-page with the same information as the original site while verifying the information was accurate and current.
It was now close to 11 PM and I was feeling not only excited but glad that the original site was back to its old glory of being able to help others.
The Next Day - It Evolves!
Having now slept five hours I my mind was active and racing. Making the first post on Facebook I found out, from Rich, a lot of information and why/how the original site died (lack of funds, no support, etc.) I knew that if I just kept the newly created site the way it was and like the old one that it would too fail in time. I needed to come up with something different. This is continuing to evolve as I am only two weeks into this new life goal. What we're doing to start is:
- Expand from Porter Couty which believes they don't have homelessness problem as the group took care of it and I see those in need walking down our streets daily. Yes, I did ignore them, and I was wrong. I will expand to include all of Northwest Indiana (La Porte, Lake, Newton, Porter, and Starke Counties).
- Create flyers and put them to wherever I can get them to build awareness.
- Look for ways to expand the site beyond just a men and women resource. We've already added families and food banks.
- We will seek donations, $5/month (less than a Starbucks) from up to 300 people. There are over 1 million in the counties we're helping in!
- We will seek corporate sponsors as well to get businesses behind it.
- We will have stickers for people to show their support further bringing awareness to the program.
Who am I?
As I get through writing all of the above, I think it's good to know who I am. This will be a serious eye opener for many people, including myself as I write this. To start my name is John Marx.
- I like bullet points.
- I am definitely not a saint like those that originally created the program.
- I am a larger guy, not fat, but definitely know I have room for improvement.
- I am definitely sarcastic and use that to protect myself.
- I have one rule in my life I call "No lying." My entire existence is based on this.
- I am equally not someone that you might think would do this as many things of me as a "jerk" and only out for myself. That is because people haven't taken time to learn who I am. They might actually like me if they did but being they haven't then I am probably better off without them in my life.
- I am a person that wants the world to be a better place than I came into it. I know I can't do that as I only have control over myself.
- I served in the United States Army from 1990 to 1995 as a 13C (13 Charlie) and a 71L (71 Lima). I was part of the first Gulf War. I love most of what I did in the service. The "war part" I could've done without and is something I don't talk about.
- I own my own marketing agency, Business YETI, and will be the driving force that keeps this project running. The more I learn marketing wise I will put it to good use on this site to further expand its reach.
- I have been married three times total.
- I am thankful for all of my past and maybe not my second marriage, but it is my past and does define my future, so I am happy for it even though I regret that.
- My current wife I call my princess as "to me" Queens are cheated on. Princesses are always loved.
- I have five children, two boys and three girls, together with my wife.
- I was homeless for several months when I was in my thirties and lived in my car during that time.
- I also had to move back into my parents' house for a month as well.
- I was a statistic that with friends I was able to get through it.
- During each of my homelessness moments I had a job, I wasn't on drugs, and during those times I didn't drink. Yet I was there.
- One would think that having gone through that I wouldn't have ignored it as much as I have. The kicker was I never considered myself homeless. Only until starting this site did I realize I was.
I know I can't solve everything, but I can bring awareness, have empathy, and try to not only improve my life but those equally around me.